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Harley-Davidson: 1925

Washington, D.C., circa 1925. "H. Addison Bowie." A motorcycle dealer on H Street. With "Harley-Davidson" in the big window under "Distributors," and a smaller sign upstairs. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1925. "H. Addison Bowie." A motorcycle dealer on H Street. With "Harley-Davidson" in the big window under "Distributors," and a smaller sign upstairs. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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To the man on kneeling on the far left in the flannel with the cigarette -- I would invent time travel for you.

My Relatives

This is an email I just got from my wife, Julia. Her maiden name was Julia Bowie. Oh, her dad's name is Henry Addison Bowie too. The owner of this place was my wife's great-grandfather.

Jack, this is the craziest picture!!! Remember Cousin Will? Well, a friend of his had read about this pic on a website. Every one is talking about it!! AND IT'S MY DADS POP POP AND NANA!!!!!!! Just make sure you read the replys that cousin Will sent and Leslie so you can know who is who. Also read what everyone is saying about it on the site AND NOTICE MY DADS NAME WRITTEN ACCROSS THE BUILDING:o)

HENERY ADDISON BOWIE. the first Harley Store ever opened!!!! WOW....That is SOOOO COOL!!!! Now, Leslie said that Pop pop was the man all the way to the left, but she described it wrong. He is the man standing BETWEEN the two women in the furs who are my Great grandmother and Great Aunt. Also the man squatting all the way to the left with the hat who looks like a movie star is Uncle Rosco. He was a Boxer.

It's amazing that this picture is circulating and relatives of the owner know it's out there. Thanks for whoever found this picture. And if you have an original I'd like to locate it. email me at

[The original (a glass negative) is at the Library of Congress. - Dave]

That's my Grandfather!

Addison is my grandfather and the two women are my grandmother and great aunt. I'm pretty sure your sister would have been safe with Frances and Beulah, "Tipster." I have a cool photo of Addison standing with a motorcycle.

H.A. Bowie H-D memories

My father is 93 years young and still talks about H. Addison Bowie. He was only 8 when this picture was taken but would patronize the dealership in the 1930s to buy H-D VL parts. He operated a small motorcycle repair shop on his parents' farm in Maryland, about 15 miles from the Bowie dealership. In the mid-1930s he bought a 1931 H-D VL there. My parents took their honeymoon on this machine and were still riding it up until a few years ago. A big thanks to whoever found this great old pic. I always wondered what the place looked like!

Every Single One

All of these guys, every single one, look like a movie character. Amazing! I have to agree that this is one of my favorite Shorpy photos to date.

If only

A lot of collective individuality going on here. If only we could find someone who could tell us something, anything, about this crowd. I bet most everyone had a nickname. Like "Chick" or "Buddy." I suppose the most we could hope for is that someone here has a (very elderly) son or daughter, or maybe a grandchild, who will recognize a face.

Right now, all we have is this photograph. But it's really something!

Storm Trooper Shirt

This is a "cotswool" US Army issue olive drab flannel shirt. Interesting in the fact the shirt was closed, having to be pulled over the head to be put on. Fully buttoned shirts were not regulation until 1934 although the low set pockets remained.

The patch I assume is a distinctive unit insignia. I do not have a reference handy but it looks like a M1917 helmet (the Doughboy helmet) imposed on what looks like a wagon wheel. There is something on the helmet, perhaps Mercury wings, I cannot tell. Anyone know their 20s unit patches?

No-motor cycles

Yes, Harley-Davidson did sell bicycles as well as motorcycles:

The Harley-Davidson bicycles were painted and pinstriped in the same colors as their motorcycle brethren. Ads for the bicycle were primarily directed at pre-teen boys and girls; they clearly intended to capitalize on the Harley-Davidson name and mystique of the day. Most notable is the crank; note the ingenious "HD". Harley-Davidson received a patent for this design.

This picture made me get an account here.

I have been visiting Shorpy for a long time but seeing this collection of great faces early this morning made me actually get an account tonight so I could chime in and agree the faces are like from a master painting. Everyone tells a story. And the diversity in the collection tells us something too. Someone asked if today's faces are as interesting. I think in the US the weight problem makes some faces smoother and obviously rounder and less defined so many of us seem to sort of look the same. Also in this picture people are not smiling for the camera -- they are smiling a bit because they are assured and confident -- they are looking into the camera with a very different facial expression than some might use today.

Semper Fi

Got a Marine in there, too, middle row under "Distributors" on the storefront.

Gotta love the leather in this pic. Most of the classic motorcycle wear dates straight from the 20's -- the archetypal leather motorcycle jacket like the one Brando wore in "The Wild Ones" is still made by the original manufacturer, and dates from this era:

Real Bikers

Read the window. The sell bicycles. They're not overweight -- they peddle to work. I want me a Harley-Davidson fifteen speed road bike!

[Actually they would pedal to work and peddle at work. - Dave]

Dave, you're such a caution.

Re: A little of everything.

These guys are sharp. I agree with Jay Carolina on the way they are dressed, and man, do I love those boots. And you must see how significant this picture is culturally. Policemen, bikers of multiple races, and the ladies all posed together for this photograph... this is a fantastic find!

Look out

These guys are coming after all the 21st century smarty pants who made nasty comments about their kid sisters at the Thayer Studio.

Ghost Riders

627 H has been disappeared.

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Looks like a 1920's version of the Village People.

Character with a capital C.

Look at those mugs. My grandmother would have called them "tough cookies." The hats, jackets and boots are amazing. Right in the middle of the roaring twenties.

Cast of characters

Sylvester Stallone, Paul Newman, Curly Howard, the Dead End Kids, the Jets and more. Whatta Shot!

What a pic

This might, albeit a big might, be my favorite picture on Shorpy to date. The number of characters in this photo is ridiculous. What a deliciously eclectic portrait.


Say what you like

but almost every man in the picture is wearing a tie. Unlike the modern equivalent with their pants on the ground or jams or cargo pants and basketball jerseys 4 times too big, the crowd is basically well dressed. This even includes the guy in the Snoopy outfit holding the screwdriver

Time Traveler

Dig the guy with the Storm Trooper outfit, and what does the shoulder patch signify?

I'll cut ya

don't mess with the old guy

What a hoot

Nearly laughed myself out of my skin in looking at this photo, but then, I looked at my family photos from this era, no perceptable difference, yikes; hopefully tis the fashion that is the comic relief. One notable thing is the quality of window glass which appears to be about the same as the century before.


Great pic Dave. Would love to see their bikes. I don't think 'elf and safety was top priority then.


I wouldn't trust any of them (not even the three "women") with my sister!

Text book "Hanging Out"

If anyone ever needed a solid example of that idiom this is it in spades.

The Wild Ones

Unlike the 50-year-old CPAs who ride Harleys today, most of these guys look like true badasses!

Bikers Galore!

It would seem that quite a few of these guys (cop included) rode their Harleys to this photo op. And a chilly ride it was, judging from the clothing.

Motley Crew

What a great picture. Look at them faces. I can't tell if the man in suspenders toward the left is genial or menacing. I hope that's a screwdriver in his hand.


Why are the faces in these early pictures so interesting? Are modern faces interesting too, but we are just accustomed to them?

Out of 64 visible faces, only 4 are wearing glasses. Seems like a low percentage.

Shorpy in the Window

I see you.

A little of everything

I love how there are the cops, the women in fur, the motorcycle toughs, the men in business suits, and people who are both black and white. Harley Davidson - the great equalizer?

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