Graham, Bette Nesmith (1924–1980)

views updated

Graham, Bette Nesmith (1924–1980)

American entrepreneur who invented Liquid Paper . Born Bette Claire McMurray in Dallas, Texas, in 1924; died in 1980; married Warren Nesmith, in 1942 (divorced); children: Michael Nesmith (an actor).

Bette Nesmith Graham turned her imperfect typing skills into a $47 million fortune. Born in 1924 and raised in Dallas, Texas, she left high school at 17 to marry her high school sweetheart, Warren Nesmith. At 19, she was supporting her son while her husband was fighting in World War II. Divorced soon after her husband's return, she continued to be the sole support of her son.

Despite her lack of training, Graham worked most of her life as a secretary, teaching herself basic office skills along the way, including how to type. She was employed as an executive secretary at Texas Bank & Trust when IBM carbon-film ribbon came into use, making it all but impossible to erase typing errors without smearing the copy. In a flash of ingenuity, Graham brought in some white tempera paint she had been using on holiday windows and began using it to cover her mistakes. Although some of her coworkers thought she was cheating, many of them begged for the formula. In time, she began producing "Mistake Out" in her kitchen, gradually refining the formula with some help from a worker in a paint manufacturing plant and her son's chemistry teacher. When it was perfected into a smooth, opaque, and quick-to-dry fluid, she applied for a patent under the name "Liquid Paper." When IBM refused her proposal to market the product, she produced and sold Liquid Paper out of her garage. Although slow to catch on, it finally took off in 1968, allowing Graham to give up her secretarial job.

In 1970, Graham sold her invention to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5 million, plus royalties, which allowed her to spend her last years happily doing charity work. Upon her death in 1980, her fortune was divided equally between Gillette and her son Michael Nesmith, who in the intervening years made his own mark as a TV star on the sitcom "The Monkees."

About this article

Graham, Bette Nesmith (1924–1980)

Updated About content Print Article