Bette Nesmith Graham

February 10, 2012 by staff 

Bette Nesmith Graham, Bette Claire Graham (23 March 1924 – 12 May 1980) was an American typist, commercial artist, the inventor of Liquid Paper, and mother of musician and producer Michael Nesmith.
Graham was born Bette Claire McMurray in Dallas, Texas to Jesse McMurray, an automotive supply company manager, and Christine Duval.

She was raised in San Antonio and graduated from Alamo Heights High School. She married Warren Audrey Nesmith (1919-1984) before he left to fight in World War II, but they divorced in 1946. To support herself as a single mother, she worked as a secretary at Texas Bank and Trust, a bank in Texas. She eventually attained the position of the executive secretary, the highest position open at that time to women in the industry.

It was very difficult to erase mistakes made by early electric typewriters, which caused problems for Graham. In order to make extra money she used her talent painting holiday windows at the bank. She realized, as she said, “with lettering, an artist never corrects by erasing, but always paints over the error. So I decided to use what artists use. I put some tempera water-based paint in a bottle and took my watercolor brush to the office. I used that to correct my mistakes.”

Graham secretly used her white correction paint for five years, making some improvements with help from her son’s chemistry teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas. Some bosses admonished her against using it, but coworkers frequently sought her “paint out.” She eventually began marketing her typewriter correction fluid as “Mistake Out” in 1956. The name was later changed to Liquid Paper when she began her own company.

In 1962 Bette Nesmith married Robert Graham, who joined her in running the company.

In 1979 she sold Liquid Paper to the Gillette Corporation for USD $47.5 million. At the time, her company employed 200 people and made 25 million bottles of Liquid Paper per year.

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