At the age of 27, Bette Nesmith Graham was working as an Executive Secretary to the Chairman of the Board of Texas Bank and Trust. Having dropped out of high school to pursue secretarial trade lessons when she was 17, Graham’s tenure as Executive Secretary was a short one after she discovered a flaw with the chosen tool for most written communication at that time, electric typewriters. For all their efficiency and quicker word processing, Graham identified a key flaw when using them. If a typist was to make a mistake on a typewriter, it became difficult to correct it using the usual method of erasing (usually using a pencil eraser). Worse still, should someone attempt to use an eraser on a typewritten document, the carbon ribbons used by typewriters would leave black smears on documents.
A Liquid Solution
Puzzled that nobody had created a solution in altering typewritten documents without the words staining, Graham used knowledge from her artistic background to begin looking into creating a much needed solution. Using her blender at home, Graham would create a batch of white, quick-drying tempera paint which she later named Mistake Out‘. Much like when applied today, the Liquid Paper would settle on top of any written text, leaving a blank space for writing onto.
Many of the employees at Graham’s place of work latched on to the invention, eager to find out how they could get some for their own use. The invention then sprouted a side business that took up a huge proportion of Graham’s working and personal time, which lead to her dismissal from her job in the same year. However the invention was beginning to sell in the thousands, so she no longer needed to work 9-5.
Growth in Sales and Popularity
By 1967, Graham’s new corrective solution was selling up to a million units per day. Now trademarked, patented and renamed Liquid Paper’, Graham was able to supply Liquid Paper to the industries that needed it most factories, schools and even for within the home for many years. Interest from suitors began to rise as the sales grew, leading to the Liquid Paper’ company along with all its trademarks and products being bought by the Gillette Company shortly before Graham’s death in 1980. The deal would be worth $47.5 million. Graham’s sale would spawn many variations of the Liquid Paper product including White Away, Wite-Out, Tipp-Ex and Twink among others, most of which are still selling today.
If the name Nesmith sounds familiar, she was also the mother of Michael Nesmith of The Monkees.