Biography of Mrs. E. Marvin Motte
San Francisco, CA Biographies





MRS. E. MARVIN MOTTE
One of the most interesting stories in the business history of San Francisco is that of Motte, Incorporated, situated at 406 Geary street, which was founded and is owned by Mrs. E. Marvin Motte. It is the story of the development of a prosperous business enterprise, which was born of a chance incident, and which has grown under the nurture of a woman's brilliant talent and business sagacity.

In the year 1920, Mrs. Motte received as a gift a number of cleverly fashioned organdie flowers. Such colorful creations were then much in vogue for feminine wear. The beauty of the flowers appealed to her and, possessed of artistic and creative ability, she made copies of them, partly for her own diversion and partly for the thrill of creating something beautiful, something satisfying to her inspiration. No thought of commercialism entered her mind at this time. The first flowers made, new ideas came to her, new combinations of colors and materials suggested themselves in overwhelming flood, and soon she had made a sizable collection. The idea of selling them was suggested by her friends who saw the result of her work, and they enthusiastically urged her to seek a market for them, which she did, at first with some hesitation and a little diffidence. Her first sales trip was to a large department store of San Francisco, and the buyer purchased. Next she solicited an Oakland store, and here several gross of flowers were ordered. In this manner, Mrs. Motte's business started. A quick public appreciation of her appealing products brought a wave of demand which she had to supply. She first began making her flowers in her own home, but increasing business soon necessitated more space. Seven months after she started at her home, she moved down town to her present address. Here she started operations January 10, 1921.

Once again fortune was destined to smile upon Mrs. Motte. Upon a certain day, one of her buyers noticed a small hemstitched handkerchief which she wore tucked under her bracelet, the dainty bit of chiffon having been her own handiwork. He immediately requested her to make a quantity of them for his store, and thus a new era was begun in her business. Orders came in large number, and with the growth of business, Mrs. Motte's extraordinary ability to create new designs and produce new effects began to assert itself even more. She made her own patterns, made hand decorated designs, and even went so far as to use rhinestones, pearls, feathers, and lace in the motifs. The demand for the flowers which had hitherto been manufactured decreased, as all vogues do, and by degrees the labor of Mrs. Motte and her employes was directed toward the handkerchief trade. These little articles of dress are now shipped to every metropolitan center of the world. They are all hand made, and developed from sheer, dainty materials, such as chiffons, laces, georgette, and rare Irish linens, some of the latter dyed at their source to match milady's costume. The handkerchiefs range in size from a mere wisp of texture to one of a yard square. At the beginning Mrs. Motte found it necessary to send some of the work to Porto Rico to be done, but is now having it taught in her own organization. Half of the sales of these handkerchiefs is made in the territory east of the Rockies, and among the steady customers are some of the most noted stores in the country, such as Wanamaker's of New York. A new line has recently been established, which is most promising. This is the making of table decorations of original linens, artistically decorated with the same creative strength as the handkerchiefs. Designs for luncheons and dinners, formal and informal, have been made, and it is expected that the production of these will have a steady growth. Original designs for the exclusive trade are now being shown.

Another indication of the phenomenal success which Mrs. Motte has enjoyed in the business world is the growth of her payroll. She started in one room, and soon had a half dozen employes, which next became a dozen, and today over forty workers are employed in her Geary street studio. The annual payroll has recently run to the figure of sixty thousand dollars. A sales staff of seventeen covers the east and midwest, and there is a branch in New York, also representation in Honolulu. Work is supplied likewise to almost three hundred part time home workers.

From her girlhood days Mrs. Motte has manifested a talent for design in textures. Color combinations and their arrangement in her products come to her spontaneously, and the increase of the public demand has naturally meant the greater flow of ideas. She has taken great enjoyment in teaching the girls in her employ, and in a number of instances has discovered and fostered real genius. There is harmonious cooperation throughout her organization, and a spirit pervading the workshop and salesroom which is uncommonly pleasant. Mrs. Motte has been a student of her profession throughout her career. In the days when she was making flowers, she took lessons from a French designer in dyeing materials, making French flowers, and in other phases of the art. Business methods were at first a care to her, as her skill was directed more along the creative channel. The handling of accounts of the orders, and the scores of details incident to a growing business swamped her, but with the assistance of a willing and well informed friend she eventually learned the method which she now utilizes. Her outstanding success comes from the unique ideas she has had the courage to express in her own way; her persistence and courage: and her business principle of producing and guaranteeing absolutely perfect work. San Francisco may well be proud of this distinctive manufactory which exists in the heart of its business district, and is conducted by one of the city's most representative and charming women.

From:
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931


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