The Wild One, 1947 Knucklehead

The Wild One, 1947 Knucklehead

The Wild One • 28″x 12″x 10″ • Edition of 30 • Bronze

It is in 1947, and he has just ridden into town on his bobbed Harley-Davidson knucklehead, looking for excitement. He has a war-surplus bomber jacket, sleeping bag, sunglasses and a go-to-hell hat.
He’s young and romantic and trouble and fun – an American original.

The Scene
A group of young men on motorcycles rode into Hollister, California, a quiet little farm town with a dirt main street, it’s 1947. They raced around, chased girls, got drunk and had fights. A photographer for Life Magazine happened to be there and sent in some posed photos. Life wrote the article as if Attila the Hun had arrived. Thus the “Biker” stereotype was invented. “The Wild One,” a movie starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin loosely based on the incident, became a cult favorite. In reality, Hollister saw them as young soldiers just back from a long and brutal war, which they had won. They deserved to blow off some steam. They were welcomed back the next year. Hollister is a favorite haunt still for many bikers, there is an annual event that attracts thousands of “bikers.”

The Biker
America liked the idea of Bikers. They were the rebellious loud happy spirit of youth on their big powerful motorcycles, the lone cowboy on his horse. America still likes the idea, look at the millions of black-leather clad folks on their motorcycles. They may be doctors, lawyers and plumbers during the week – but on the weekend, they are bikers!

The Motorbike
Harley-Davidson had been making V-Twin motorcycles since the teens. In 1936 they introduced a bike with overhead valves, something new for Harley. Nicknamed “Knucklehead” for the shape of the valve covers; it was fast and dependable. In 1947 it was in its last year of production and affordable for a veteran. Removing the front fender and cutting off or “bobbing” the rear made it a bobber.