Bette Nesmith Graham never set out to be an inventor, believing her vocation in life was to be an artist.
However, shortly after the Second World War ended she found herself divorced and a single parent (the child Michael Nesmith, later went on to become a member of 60’s pop group, The Monkees) living in Dallas and working for a bank as a secretary.
Being an artist and noticing that typing errors at work were costly, she considered better ways to correct them.
Using the theory that if artists could paint over their mistakes, then typists should be able to do something similar, she mixed up her first batch of Liquid paper using a blender in her own kitchen.
Graham put some tempera water-based paint, coloured to match the stationery she used, in a bottle, took her watercolour brush to the office and used this to correct her typing mistakes.
Soon another secretary saw the new invention and asked for some of the correcting fluid. Graham found a green bottle at home, wrote ‘Mistake Out’ on a label, and gave it to her friend. Soon all the secretaries in the building were using the new product.
By 1956 Graham started her own company to produce the new product out of her Dallas home. The Mistake Out Company was formed with young Michael and his friends helping to fill the orders. But business wasn’t booming and it was only when her boss fired her (ironically for making a typing error) that she devoted enough time to the business to launch it properly.
In 1958, the refined version of the product was renamed ‘Liquid Paper’. Graham applied for a patent and trademark the same year.
The rest, of course, is history. By 1967 Graham was head of a multi-million dollar business, moving the following year to her own plant and corporate headquarters.
In 1979, Graham sold Liquid Paper to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5 million. She died in 1980 at the age of 56.