The Technical
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The Technical

How Are Liquid Paper, The Monkeys, & MTV Related?

A modern image of liquid paper

Bette Nesmith Graham mixed the first batch of liquid paper in her kitchen blender, pouring the contents into empty nail polish containers, and hiding them in her office desk.

She used it only to erase typos and avoid scrutiny from her boss.

Graham was a single mother working as a secretary at the Texas Bank & Trust in Dallas earning $300 per month to support herself & child Michael, who, as you’ll discover, became special in his own right.

Bette used new electric typewriters with sensitive key triggers and a carbon ribbon instead of fabric.

It was supposed to make mistakes easier to remove, but Graham still made several errors.

Graham came from an artistic background and knew painters covered up mistakes, not by erasing them, but by painting over them.

Bette decided to sneak fast-drying white tempera paint and a water-colour brush into work to conceal her typos.

Other office secretaries discovered Bette’s invention and wanted in.

So Bette spent her nights filling up nail polish bottles in her kitchen.

Turning a Liquid paper Crafting Hobby, Into a Business

Bette Graham, the inventor of liquid paper

Bette realized she could transform this discovery into a profitable business to pull herself from poverty.

She named her invention Mistake Out, but couldn’t afford the $400 patent fee.

Unfazed, Graham tore through chemistry books in public libraries to improve her product’s consistency.

Every night she tinkered with formulas, wrote to buyers, and mailed samples.

She went to sales events across Texas and hired her son and his teenage friends to fill and label bottles.

Being so dedicated to her side-business came at a cost for Bette.

One day she signed off on a Texas Bank & Trust letter with the notation “The Mistake Out Company.”

This promptly got Bette fired, giving her a chance to become a full-time small business owner in 1958.

Taking on Liquid Paper Full Time

An inkblot on a sheet of paper

She applied for a patent and changed her company name to the Liquid Paper Company.

She created a team made of herself, her son’s chemistry teacher, an office supply dealer, and a paint manufacturer.

That year, Graham’s product began to stick.

Liquid Paper had an article in an office supply magazine.

Graham met with IBM, and received a large order from General Electric.

Each breakthrough required more space.

Graham and her team moved from her garage, to a trailer, to a four room house, to a shiny downtown Dallas office.

In 1968, she opened an automated plant.

By 1975, Liquid paper produced 25 Million bottles per year and held a large share of a multi-million dollar market.

Bette Graham, now wealthy and free from poverty, opened the Gihon Foundation, which gave grants and financial support to promote women in the arts.

She also started the Bette Claire McMurray foundation, which did the same for women in business.

How is Liquid Paper Related to MTV?

The MTV logo

And remember her son Michael?

Well he went on to form a little band called The Monkeys!

And, he started his own record label combining audio records and cassettes with video.

Nesmith’s hit song, “RIO,” had a video, making it one of the first ever music videos.

The Rio video was so popular, Nesmith launched a television program on Nickelodeon called “Popclips” dedicated to music videos.

The success of Popclips eventually led to the creation of an entire channel dedicated to music videos called MTV.



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Joe Scaglione

Joe Scaglione


A content writer interested in what everyone else is interested in.