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Fascinating facts about the invention of
Liquid Paper by Bette Nesmith Graham in 1951.
You know that white stuff you paint on paper to cover mistakes? It was originally called "mistake out" and was the invention of Bette Nesmith Graham, a divorcee who went to work in 1951 to support herself and her son.
Liquid Paper Bottle (4K) Though she found work as a typist, she unfortunately wasn't a very good one and developed a white tempura paint to hide her mistakes. Using her kitchen and garage as laboratory and factory, she gradually developed a product that other secretaries and office workers began to buy. While continuing to work as a secretary, she educated herself in business methods, promotion, and research until she was satisfied that the product she had developed was really worthwhile. She then offered Mistake Out to IBM which turned it down.
Undaunted, Bette Graham changed the name from Mistake Out to Liquid Paper and kept selling it from her kitchen-garage for the next 17 years. By 1968 she was making a profit. And in 1979, the Gillette Corporation bought Liquid Paper for $47.5 million plus royalties. She was also the mother of Michael Nesmith, a member of The Monkees.


History of Office Equipment   from The Great Idea Finder


Accidents May Happen: 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Hardcover - 86 pages (1996) / Delacorte
Fifty inventions discovered by mistake serious subjects which will delight and entertain kids.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
by Catherine Thimmesh, Melissa Sweet (Ill) / Hardcover - 64 pages (2000) / Houghton Mifflin

A dozen women are profiled in this collection of short, anecdotal biographies demonstrating that necessity, ingenuity, and luck all play a part in successful inventions. The final section tells girls how to patent their inventions, and an informed bibliography will do just that.
Why Didn't I Think of That?: Bizarre Origins of Ingenious Inventions We Couldn't Live Without
by Allyn Freeman, Bob Golden (Contributor) / Paperback - 224 pages (1997) / John Wiley & Sons

Inventions chronicles the odd origins of famous products, explores how these inventions changed our lives, and reveals the business side of their production and distribution.
Women Inventors & Their Discoveries
by Ethlie Ann Vare, Greg Ptacek / Hardcover / Oliver Press - 1993
Interesting facts about 10 obscure American women who invented famous things fill the pages of this very readable book. Each informative chapter is devoted to the life of one remarkable woman.
Women Inventors (American Profiles)
Linda Jacobs Altman / hardcover - 128 pages / Facts on File, Inc. - 1997
This innovative collection in the American Profiles series focuses on the history of the process of invention as told through the accomplishments of ten notable women.
Women Scientists and Inventors: A Science Puzzle Book
Jacquelyn A. Greenblatt / Paperback - 96 pages / Goodyear Pub Co. - 1998
These 42 challenging puzzles spotlight the contributions of important women scientists and inventors from ancient times to the present. Short narratives focus on the science behind the discoveries, and the puzzles reveal the women behind these incredible achievements.

Invention Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Featured Bette Nesmith Graham (1924-1980) for her invention of Liquid Paper.

Inventor of Liquid Paper
In 1980, she sold her company for $47.5 million. Graham died six months later.
Liquid Paper Timeline
The History of Liquid Paper At the PaperMate Web site.
Bette Nesmith Graham
It was originally called "mistake out" and was the invention of Bette Nesmith Graham, a secretary in Dallas and a single mother raising a son.
Solution to a Problem
In 1951, Bette was working as a secretary using the new IBM electric typewriters. When she tried to erase her mistakes with a pencil eraser, her work looked smudged and messy.
Liquid Paper Art

Pen, liquid paper on paper.
Who Invented Liquid Paper? (Site removed.)


  • Mike Nesmith, a member of the fabulous 60s rock band The Monkees, is her son.


Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised February, 2005.

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