Smithers-Oasis Wet Floral Foam has been the industry standard for over 60 years. It comes in bricks, shapes, and forms for creating all types of floral beauty. Like many revolutionary products, it had an "accidental" start...
Vernon Lewis Smithers was a chemist in Akron Ohio in the early 1950's. One of his customers, Union Carbide, had invented a rigid foam product that was light and crushable. The problem was no one knew what to do with it! Vernon was intrigued and since he wanted to manufacture something he decided to purchase the equipment and rights to this weird foam and figure out a use for it.
No one is quite sure how he made the jump from this odd foam to flowers- one thought is he may have purchased flowers for his wife and on one occasion while looking at an arrangement he had a brain storm!
With some experimentation he was able to develop a formulation that would hold 95% water, which allowed cut flowers to be supported and hydrated.
In 1953 at the age of 64, Vernon filed for a patent and set up production in Kent Ohio.
Sometime after Vernon's passing in 1973, Smither's employee Charlie Walton (who later purchased the Smithers Oasis company) along with his friend Paul Ecke Jr. (a famous California poinsettia grower) developed a new Oasis product called Rootcubes and Rootcube wedges. These products revolutionized the growing industry as a lightweight inert medium that made shipping cuttings much easier and less expensive.
Vernon never knew how important his invention would become for the grower industry just like it had been in the florist industry. In 1985 he was posthumously awarded the Leland T. Kintzele Distinguished Service Award by WFFSA. In 1987 he was inducted into the SAF's Floriculture Hall of Fame and in 1998 he was profiled in a special exhibit at the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Fitting praise for the man who turned the "unwanted foam" into the wet floral foam everyone wants: