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Urban Legends

Liquid Paper and a Monkey

The Legend

The woman who invented liquid paper was also the mother of a monkey.


Behind the Legend

In 1951, Bette Nesmith was a young executive secretary at the Texas Dangerous Chemical Bank & Trust Company in Dallas, Texas. Her responsibilities were awesome and included completing important government paperwork concerning the hazardous materials her company handled, but unfortunately she had tight deadlines and was a lousy typist. After one particularly bad mistake (accidentally typing "geranium" instead of "uranium" on an inventory form, leading to the destruction of all the greenhouses in Los Angeles), she came up with the idea of painting over her typos.

A few (generally benign) experiments later, she had invented Liquid Paper and became a wealthy woman overnight in about 15 years.

But there's more to Bette Nesmith's story than this.

In 1941, right after the United States entered World War II, there was an upsurge in interest in speculative scientific endeavors. One such series of experiments involved an attempt to breed "super soldiers" that could be used against Japanese and Nazi forces. Nesmith's husband was a scientist working on this project, and he secretly injected her with a classified formula one night while she slept that made her pregnant with what she thought was their first child but which was really a hybrid of human and monkey genes.

When the child was born, it was immediately clear that the experiment was a failure. Instead of a human child with ape-like strength, the kid was pure chimp -- the monkey DNA had completely dominated its development.

In 1946, when Nesmith exited a multi-year state of denial and realized that there was something wrong with her child, she divorced her husband. The monkey shaved itself, learned to live among humans, eventually starred in a popular television series.


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