The founder is generally considered to be Clarence "Pappy" Hoel. He purchased an Indian Motorcycle franchise in Sturgis in 1936 and formed the "Jackpine Gypsies" that same year.

The first rally was held on August 14, 1938, by the "Jackpine Gypsies" motorcycle club, who still own and operate the tracks, hill climb, and field areas where the rally is centered.

The first event was called the "Black Hills Classic" and consisted of a single race with nine participants and a small audience. The focus of a motorcycle rally was originally racing and stunts.

The event has grown to be one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world. It brings over a half million people to the town with a population of 6600.

The Sturgis Rally has been held every year, with exceptions during World War II. For instance, in 1942, the event was not held due to gasoline rationing. Check out the timeline.

Also check out this cool video of the first rally: