Posted in Monday Morsels

Monday Morsels: Liquid Paper

This Monday’s morsal moresel morsel gives a nod to a litle little office helper that got it’s its start back in the 1950s: Liquid Paper.

Bette Nesmith Graham, an executive secretary at Dallas Bank and Trust, desperately needed a better way to correct typing errors.  Having never attended secretarial school, Graham struggled daily with typos and corrections…even more so when IBM introduced their new electric typewriter with carbon film ribbons.  While these machines certainly made the daunting tasks of correspondences and memos easier for secretaries nationwide, making corrections seemed near impossible due to the messy nature of the new carbon film ribbons.  After watching an artist paint over his mistakes while decorating the bank’s front windows for Christmas, Graham developed the idea to paint over her typing mistakes.

Mimicking the artists’ techniques, Graham concocted a mixture of a white, water-based paint thin enough to paint over her typos but thick enough to cover the mistakes.  She even managed to experiment with the paint mixture to match the exact shade of stationery.  Once news spread of Graham’s correction fluid, other bank secretaries were willing to pay for bottles of her invention…eventually leading to Mistake Out in 1956.  Once demand and production of Mistake Out outgrew her small home kitchen and garage, Graham patented her invention and officially named it Liquid Paper.

In 1958 when a serious typing mistake led to her termination from the bank, Graham began manufacturing, bottling, and selling Liquid Paper full-time.  Thanks to a description in the office trade magazine The Office  and a review of her product in the magazine The Secretary, Graham sold her first major order to General Electric Company for 400+ bottles.

The interesting history of Liquid Paper and Bette Nesmith Graham doesn’t end here!

(did you know that Bette’s son Michael Nesmith was a member of the ’60s group The Monkees!?!?)

For more information on this, or to check out other awesome resources,

feel free to stop by the library.

Bibliography:

Derks, Scott. Working Americans 1880-2010 Volume XI: Inventors & Entrepreneurs.  Millerton, NY: Grey House Publishing, Inc.; 2010,  339-402.

“History” Liquid Paper. http://www.liquidpaper.com/about_us.html (accessed October 7, 2011)

“Liquid Paper”  Lemelson-MIT PRogram. http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/nesmith.html (accessed October 7, 2011)

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Author:

We are the librarians at Haywood Community College in Clyde, NC. We offer great books, a variety of research & educational services, and a staff full of general awesomeness to the HCC and Haywood County communities.

2 thoughts on “Monday Morsels: Liquid Paper

  1. I didn’t know that…what a great blog! I am an oldie but a goodie, and a very impressed! I remember using (for my typing errors) the different colors of paper “white-out, pink-out, blue-out, etc.” on contract carbon papers that I used to “type-out”. This story just goes to show ya that when one door closes another one opens, of course that is if you take the initiative to believe in yourself.

  2. Thank you for the kind words-we’re glad you enjoyed the article! The post has sparked a lot of discussion about typewriters and we have been happy to hear that there are many people (like us!) who can remember the oddly comforting clackety-clack of the Smith-Corona.

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