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What is Liquid Paper®?

Liquid Paper was used extensively during the era of typewriters.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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Originally created in the 1950’s, Liquid Paper® is the brand name for a typing correction fluid used extensively when typewriters were the most efficient means of creating professional text documents. Until the advent of the word processor, just about anyone who used a typewriter would keep a small bottle of Liquid Paper® correction fluid on hand. Applied with a small brush that was included with the bottle of fluid, it was possible to cover typing errors, allow a moment for the fluid to dry, then simply type the correct letters or characters into the space.

The development of Liquid Paper® solvent came about due to the efforts of Bette Nesmith Graham. Graham was employed with a typing pool and knew first hand how frustrating it could be to type almost a whole page of text and then make an error. While there were some tools used for correction at the time, they tended to leave behind a smudge that was unacceptable in many instances. Her frustration with those tools led her to begin experiments that eventually resulted in the Liquid Paper® invention.

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In order to deal with correction issues, Graham developed her own formula for a product she called Mistake Out. Using the blender in her kitchen, she combined several ingredients to come up with a white liquid that could be applied over a misspelled word using a small artist’s brush. The liquid was fast-drying, making it possible to type over the error within a minute after the application. Because the correction liquid was almost identical to the shade of good quality typing paper, the correction looked far more professional than other methods of the day, and could almost be undetectable.

From the time Graham invented Liquid Paper®, the product garnered a fair amount of attention through word of mouth. At one point, she attempted to arrange a deal with IBM, who passed on the product. Graham continued to market the product herself. From its creation in 1951 until 1968, Bette Nesmith Graham marketed and sold her creation, now named Liquid Paper®, using her own resources.

In 1968, Graham sold Liquid Paper® to the Gillette Corporation in exchange for $47.5 million dollars in United States currency. Graham also was granted royalties on future sales of the product, thus ensuring that she would continue to earn profits from her efforts.

After Gillette took over the manufacture and distribution of the Liquid Paper, the line was developed to include a range of colors including shades of blue, yellow, red, and green. This allowed the product to be used for correcting errors on colored paper that was often used for cover sheets to reports, flyers, and other applications. Throughout the 1970’s, Liquid Paper® continued to be a profitable product that was considered as essential to an office environment as pencils and note paper.

When Graham passed away in 1980, her considerable estate was divided between her favorite charities and a substantial bequest to her only child, Robert Michael Nesmith. Nesmith is best known as a member of the Monkees from 1966 to 1969, as well as one of the early creative geniuses in the development of music videos in the late 1970’s.

While the advent of the desktop computer and word processing software rendered typewriters more or less obsolete, Liquid Paper® continues to sell well, although nowhere near the sales generated in its heyday. In 2000, the ongoing Liquid Paper® history entered a new era when Newell Rubbermaid acquired the line. Today, the product is widely available at office supply stores as well as in the school supplies section of most discount retail stores.

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AnswerMan
Post 3

@pollick, I remember how the fix would look worse than the mistake after using those correction fluids. There was also a piece of film coated with a white powder we would use sometimes. The idea was to go back to the mistake, insert the film between the paper and the ribbon, and then type that same letter again. Allegedly, it would cover over the wrong letter and let you retype the right one, but it rarely ever worked that well.

pollick
Post 2

@Buster29, I hated it when the Liquid Paper didn't dry completely and I'd try to type over the mistake. The ink from the typewriter would get all smeared, so I'd have to break out the Liquid Paper again or else start over from scratch.

Buster29
Post 1

Now it can be said. I hated working with liquid paper back in the day. It was always a very delicate operation, and it rarely ever fooled anybody. I'd load up that flimsy little brush with fluid and then start tapping away at the one letter I missed in a line of typing. Sometimes I could just swipe over the mistake with one brushstroke, but most of the time I'd have to stab at it a bunch of times and hope I didn't white out any of the other letters while doing it.

I'm so glad we have word processors and computers that allow us to proofread things without the need for correction fluid or tapes.

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