The Hells Angels can be regarded as the original motorcycle gang and although they do not compare in age to some of the world’s older organised crime groups, they can be dated reliable to 1948. There is some uncertainty about the origin of the group, although the official Hell’s Angels website is in no doubt. It states that the first group was founded in 1948 in the Sam Bernadino/Fontana area of the United States. The subsequent drift of the San Bernadino members towards Oakland mean that this location is now (incorrectly) regarded as the home of the Hells Angels.
Independent sources often link the formation of the Hells Angels to the anti-establishment movement prompted by soldiers returning from the Second World War. The name Hells Angels can be traced back further than the motorcycle groups; it was the name of a Howard Hughes aviation movie from the 1930s and was then, because of the nature of the film, taken by the U.S. Air Force Third Squadron during active service in China. The Hells Angels website does concede that one of the founders, Arvid Olsen, served in this unit. Several other motorcycle groups were founded at around the same period in the States but were not Hells Angels and had no affiliations with each other. All chapters during this period were confined within the state of California.
More uncertainty surrounds the subsequent history. It is suggested by some authorities that several biker groups, all named Hells Angels, were founded at about the same time with no relation of affiliation to each other. One could argue that this does not really seem likely. What is known is that a former member of the San Bernadino group, Rocky Graves, was the founder of the San Francisco Hells Angels, which goes someway to explaining the identical name.
The Hells Angels expanded solely within the California until 1961 when New Zealand became the unlikely first chapter outside the United States. It’s influence then began to reach to other areas within the States, notably the East Coast and Mid-West areas.