Kindred Spirit: Hey, hey, it’s a Monkees mother

Did you know that the correction fluid Liquid Paper owes its origin to the mother of a rock musician? Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Bette Nesmith Graham, I believe she was a kindred spirit, because she shared my interest in ridding the world of typos. And if you’re wondering why the name “Nesmith” sounds familiar, her son is Mike Nesmith, guitarist and singer with the ’60s rock band, the Monkees.

But first, a little history. (If you were born prior to the 1980s, you are hereby granted my permission to skip the next two paragraphs.)

Once upon a time, a machine called a typewriter existed. Big, portable and clunky, it was used to produce many word-based documents (or in my cousin Eleanor’s case, the typewriter served as a temporary home for a mouse, as she unfortunately discovered upon starting work one day).

All too often, typos were produced by the person using the typewriter. These typos were difficult and frustrating to correct.

Enter Bette Nesmith Graham, a smart woman and an executive secretary at Texas Bank and Trust in the 1950s. Bette created a white-colored, water-based paint which she used to correct typos and save time. This paint, first known as “Mistake Out,” was later renamed Liquid Paper. It became popular with secretaries and typists everywhere, since her product saved them time and money.

Although computers took over from typewriters and Liquid Paper is now used to mostly erase handwritten errors, her product is still going strong. It’s lucky for us that she didn’t “Monkee” around but did something practical to help the world erase its errors.


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