Correction fluid

Inventor of "liquid paper" and mother of a "Monkee"

Betty Nesmith (Corpus Christi, Texas, March 23, 1924 – Fort Worth, Texas, May 12, 1980)

Betty Nesmith was born Bette Clair McMurray in 1924 in Texas. She did not like school and when she was seventeen she looked for a job as a secretary. "Even though I couldn't even tap properly," she later recalled.

In early 1942 she married Warren Nesmith, who was shortly afterwards sent as a soldier to the front in Europe. That same year she had a child, Michael.

Betty was on her own and worked hard to make a living. She was trained as a typist by her boss and still completed her secondary education through evening classes. When her husband returned after the war, her marriage broke down.

But she made a career and became executive secretary of the Texas Bank in Dallas.
In the early 1950s, she was confronted with a new electric typewriter fitted with a greasier ink ribbon. The letters were more beautiful and more powerful on paper.

But what turned out?
You couldn't erase the mistakes with an ordinary pencil eraser. You just got a mess. Typing an error was no longer possible. When painting the windows of her house during the holidays, she found that you could easily eliminate mistakes with paint.

You just painted over it. She put some white tempera paint—which dries matte—into a jar and tucked it deep into her desk drawer along with a watercolor brush. With that equipment she secretly corrected her typos.
For five years she kept her trick a secret. Other secretaries found out and she gradually started trading with her jars. She experimented in her kitchen.

She used her old stand mixer to mix all sorts of paints and chemicals to get a better mixture. Above all, the stuff had to dry faster. She initially called the mixture 'Mistake Out' or 'Error Gone!', later 'Liquid Paper' or 'Liquid Paper'.

She patented a Betty Nesmith with her son Mike, who later became a guitarist with The Monkees, and presented it to IBM, a company that still produced typewriters at the time. But IBM was not interested.

By the end of 1957 she was selling 100 bottles a month. Filling it was led by her son Mike, then fifteen years old, who operated in the garage with his friends.

An office magazine reported her invention and suddenly five hundred orders came in. She was so preoccupied with her own business that one day she mistakenly typed her own firm's name on letterhead under that of the Texas Bank.

Executive secretary Betty Nesmith was summarily fired. Now she had no choice but to continue with her 'Liquid Paper'.

In 1964 she hired her first employee. Two years later, her son left for Los Angeles and scored one hit after another as a guitarist with The Monkees. "He made more money with I'm a Believer than I made in all those years together," she said in an interview.

Nevertheless, she would soon outshine her son. In 1969 she sold more than a million bottles; in 1975 more than 500 units per minute were produced in her factory.

She passed away in 1980, aged just 56, and left behind nearly $50 million.

One half went to her only son, the other to two foundations, one to support a shelter for battered women and unmarried mothers, the other to support women artists and entrepreneurs. "I've always wanted freedom for myself," she said, "and therefore for all other women."

In Germany, it was the Tipp-Ex company that conquered the European market from 1965 with a similar correction fluid. From 1959 it had introduced correction paper – to slide between the ribbon of the typewriter and the paper – on the market.

It is not clear whether there is a licensing relationship between Liquid Paper and the Tipp-Ex liquid.

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