Bette Nesmith Graham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Bette Nesmith Graham
Bette Nesmith Graham.jpg
Bette Nesmith Graham, with son Michael
Born Bette Clair McMurray
(1924-03-23)23 March 1924
Dallas, Texas
Died 12 May 1980(1980-05-12) (aged 56)
Richardson, Texas
Education Left high school at age 17
Known for Invention of Liquid Paper

Warren Audrey Nesmith (1919-1984) (m. 1942–46)

Robert Graham (m. 1962–75)
Children Michael Nesmith
Parents Jesse McMurray
Christine Duval McMurray

Bette Claire Graham (23 March 1924 – 12 May 1980) was an American typist, commercial artist, and the inventor of Liquid Paper. She was also the mother of musician and producer Michael Nesmith.[1]


Graham was born Bette Clair McMurray in Dallas, Texas to Jesse McMurray, an automotive supply company manager, and Christine Duval.[2] She was raised in San Antonio and graduated from Alamo Heights High School.[3] She married Warren Audrey Nesmith (1919–1984) before he left to fight in World War II. While he was overseas she had a child (Robert Michael Nesmith, born 30 December 1942). After Warren Nesmith returned home, they were divorced (1946). In the early 1950s, her father died, leaving some property in Dallas to Betty. She, her mother, Michael, and her sister Yvonne moved there. To support herself as a single mother, she worked as a secretary at Texas Bank and Trust. She eventually attained the position of the executive secretary, the highest position open at that time to women in the industry.

It was difficult to erase mistakes made by early electric typewriters, which caused problems. In order to make extra money she used her talent painting holiday windows at the bank. She realized, as she said, "with lettering, an artist never corrects by erasing, but always paints over the error. So I decided to use what artists use. I put some tempera water-based paint in a bottle and took my watercolor brush to the office. I used that to correct my mistakes."

Graham secretly used her white correction paint for five years, making some improvements with help from her son's chemistry teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas. Some bosses admonished her against using it, but coworkers frequently sought her "paint out." She eventually began marketing her typewriter correction fluid as "Mistake Out" in 1956. The name was later changed to Liquid Paper when she began her own company.

In 1962 Bette Nesmith married Robert Graham, who joined her in running the company.[4] They were divorced in 1975.[5]

In 1979 she sold Liquid Paper to the Gillette Corporation for USD $47.5 million. At the time, her company employed 200 people and made 25 million bottles of Liquid Paper per year.[6]

Bette Nesmith died 12 May 1980, at the age of 56, in Richardson, Texas.[7]


Her only son, Michael, inherited half of his mother's $50+ million estate.[8] A portion financed the Gihon Foundation which established the Council on Ideas, a think tank with a retreat center located north of Santa Fe, New Mexico active from 1990–2000 and devoted to exploring world problems.[9]


  1. ^ "Bette Nesmith Graham". Famous Women Inventors. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  2. ^ Texas Birth Index, "Robert Micheal Nesmith" born 1946, retrieved from, lists his mother's full birthname.
  3. ^ Gihon Foundation 1793 Catalina Street, Sand City, CA 93955 Retrieved 2010-12-11
  4. ^ "Bette Nesmith Graham". Celebrating Texas. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  5. ^ County Historian website
  6. ^ "Gillette Paper Pact". New York Times. September 21, 1979. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "The Gillette Company said it had agreed to acquire the Liquid Paper Corporation for about $47.5 million in cash. Liquid Paper, which is privately held, earned more than $3.5 million on sales of $38 million in its fiscal year ended April 30." 
  7. ^ "Dies at 56". Associated Press in The Tuscaloosa News. May 15, 1980. Retrieved 2010-03-18. "Bette Claire Graham, inventor of Liquid Paper ... She was the mother of Michael Nesmith, who was a member of the defunct Monkees rock group." 
  8. ^ Hollander, Nicole (February 14, 1988). "From The Folks Who Gave You Liquid Paper". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18. "One Monkee, Michael Nesmith, didn't need the money. He had inherited $25 million from his mother, Bette Nesmith Graham, who invented Liquid Paper." 
  9. ^ The Gihon Foundation Retrieved 2010-12-11

Further reading[edit]

  • Ethlie Ann Vare and Greg Ptacek (2002). Patently Female: From AZT to TV Dinners, Stories of Women Inventors and Their Breakthrough Ideas. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-02334-5. 

External links[edit]