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Early Franchise Contracts

In the early days of franchising, franchise contracts were often on a single legal sized page. As late as the mid twentieth century, franchise licenses sometimes were even confirmed by a handshake and verbal agreement on the arrangement.

Franchise licenses in the automobile and motorcycle sector are some of the country's earliest franchise arrangements.

This 1917 one page sales contract is displayed at the Harley-Davidson Motor Company museum. The plaque next to it says:

"Early dealers, like their modern counterparts, signed contracts with the company. These agreements defined sales territories, wholesale and retail prices and inventory numbers. While some of the earliest dealerships sold competing brands, this 1917 contract includes an exclusivity clause limiting sales to Harley-Davidson motorcycles."

Photo above: A single page sales contract on legal size paper between franchisor Harley-Davidson Motor Company and dealer Carl Canney of Farmington, N.H., 1917. Displayed at the Harley-Davidson Motor Company museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Don Sniegowski is editor of Blue MauMau, the daily news journal for franchise & small business owners. Call him at +1 (270) 321-1268, tweet @bluemaumau or email