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Made in Texas: Meet the woman who invented one of the most popular office items of the 20th century

Liquid paper products at The Women's Museum in Dallas.
Liquid paper products at The Women's Museum in Dallas. (Wikimedia)

HOUSTONWelcome to Made in Texas, where we write about products made in the Lone Star State.

Today, we’re featuring one of the most popular office items of the 20th century, liquid paper.

The product

Liquid paper is a white correction fluid used over typing or writing mistakes. Its purpose is to cover inks from a ballpoint, gel and rollerball pen, or makers.

The inventor

Bette Nesmith Graham, born in 1924 in Dallas, was an executive secretary for the chairman of the board of Texas Bank and Trust when she came up with her breakthrough creation, according to the Lemelson MIT website -- a program that celebrates outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.

In 1951, Graham and her colleagues began using the new electric typewriters, which would often lead them to become frustrated for having to retype entire pages if they made a typing mistake, according to women-inventors.com.

The idea behind liquid paper

Graham’s inspiration came after she observed painters decorating the bank’s windows for the holidays. She saw the painters covering imperfections with an additional layer of paint, according to Women Inventors.

Graham mixed up a water-based tempera paint using her kitchen blender to create the fluid she first called “Mistake Out” and used a watercolor brush to cover her typing errors, according to Lemelson MIT.

The site says Graham rebranded and patented the product as Liquid Paper, which became a million-dollar enterprise sold in 31 countries around the world.

In 1979, Graham sold her company to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5 million. A year later, she passed away at the age of 56.


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