The Hell's Angels bike club was founded in Fontana, California in 1948. In the wake of World War II there was an abundance both of motorcycles, a popular military vehicle of the time, and young men still itching for adventure and independence in the post-war US. Since that time the club has taken on a cloak of infamy, known as a bad bunch of roughians, criminals, and drug addicts in spite of the clubs consistent efforts at charitable outreach over the years. The heyday for the Angels, named after WWII bomber groups, was the 1950's and 60's after the release of Marlon Brando's film The Wild Ones, the stabbing of a Rolling Stones concert goer in Candlestick Park, and Hunter S. Thompson's recounting of them in his book, A Strange and Terrible Saga. In 1965 Bill Ray, a photographer for Life Magazine, was given unprecedented access to photograph The Hell's Angels. Most of the photographs were never published but the entire collection can now be viewed online in Life's archive collection. The photo essay portrays them exactly as we imagine and hope for them to be, rough, dusty, in trouble with the law, and having a hell of a time.
To view the complete photograph collection: