Texas Ingenuity History


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Liquid Paper and a Monkee

Bette Nesmith had a problem. As a secretary in the early 1950s typing away on one of those new fangled electric typewriters, she occasionally made a mistake. Okay, she wasn’t the greatest typist in the world and, back then, a mistake was a big deal. You either had to pull out the sheet of paper and start over again or “X” out the offending word and retype it. Retyping was a lot of work and marking it out was messy (and usually unacceptable on a business document). On the older style manual typewriters, it had often been possible to erase mistakes (although sometimes it resulted in an eraser-hole in the paper). Those new electric IBM typewriters with carbon-film ribbons were so good at laying down a character on the paper that it was almost impossible to erase. Anyone could see Bette wasn’t the only one with this problem; every typist in the world fretted over this predicament. Therein lies the problem – a problem waiting for a solution.

Bette McMurry was born in Dallas in 1924 and married Warren Nesmith at age 19. Warren went off to World War II shortly after the wedding. Bette had a son Michael while Warren was away and when he returned (like so many young couples of that era), they got a divorce. (Gee, I wonder if Bette and Mary Kay had a discussion about this?) Bette got a job as a secretary at Texas Bank and Trust in Dallas to support herself and her young son. That’s when the problem of the typing errors came up.

However, unlike the other many millions of typists, Bette had a Texas size brainstorm. She noticed how window painters often covered up their mistakes by painting over them. As a free-lance artist herself she also knew how artists often hid mistakes by covering them up with paint. Eureka! Bette had an idea. She used her artistic wiles and worked on a concoction in her kitchen until she had tempera water-based paint that matched the office stationery. . ..

Continues in book...

Texas Tidbit: Bette Nesmith designed the Liquid Paper Company with the commitment to allow employees to participate in important decision-making processes. She created offices that included a child-care center, a library, and a greenbelt to foster communication, comfort – and productivity.

The story continues in the book Texas Ingenuity... For complete information on this and other Texas stories...