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Bette Nesmith
Ceramic Sculpture  
21” x 9.5” x 8”

Bette Nesmith  (1924-1980)

Bette Nesmith married just before World War II and while her husband was overseas she gave birth to her son Michael. When her husband returned they were divorced and as a single mother she had to support herself. Living in Dallas, TX she worked as a secretary in a bank and eventually attained the position of executive secretary, the highest position open to a woman at the time.  always good at art, Nesmith made extra money by painting the holiday windows at the bank.

As a secretary it was always difficult to correct mistakes made on the typewriter. While working on a holiday window she realized that when artists make mistakes they just paint over the error.  Eventually she brought a bottle of tempera water-based paint and a watercolor brush to work and used it to correct mistakes made while typing.  She made improvements to the mixture with help from her son’s high school chemistry teacher.

Some of her bosses did not approve of her bringing paint to work, but many of her fellow secretaries sought her out when they made mistakes.  Bette eventually began marketing her typewriter correction fluid under the name “Mistake Out.”  She later changed the name to “Liquid Paper.”  Son Michael and his friends took orders for the product and delivered it to local office supply stores.  Michael also worked filling bottles in the family’s kitchen which served as laboratory and manufacturing plant.  Nesmith tried selling her idea to IBM who told her to get back to them when she “improved the product.”

General Electric was her first large customer ordering 300 bottles of Liquid Paper.  Bette left her job at the bank to focus on marketing her product. She built up her small company with nation wide distribution.  In 1979 her company was producing 25 million bottles each year and Bette sold her company to Gillette for $47.5 Million. When Nesmith died in 1980, son Michael (a member of the 60’s pop band The Monkees) inherited half of her fortune and funded the Gihon Foundation, a think tank that identifies the issues most in need of human attention and action.