On July 22nd 1890, Vernon Lewis Smithers was born. Happy 129th Birthday to an amazingly innovative contributor to the floral industry. With his development of Floral Foam Oasis in the 1950’s, The Art of Floral Design changed indefinitely.
Smithers was not a florist nor an artist of any kind, but rather a business owner and chief operator of his very own company V. L. Laboratories. In the 1930’s, this company was an independent testing laboratory for the tire and battery industry based in Akron, Ohio. An incredibly interesting chain of events, lead him into the floral business. V. L. Smithers owned and operated this company for almost two decades, in the early 1950’s opportunity knocked and he took a chance with a new “purposeless” product. Union Carbide along with one other company owned the molds and equipment for a new lightweight crushable foam. V. L. Laboratories was hired to perform testing for the product and soon after completion Union Carbide could find no feasible use for their new invention. That is when Vernon Lewis Smithers ceased his opportunity. Smithers with his strong desire to get into the manufacturing business took a chance, bought the molds and challenged himself to find a use for this new facsinating foam.
It was not until the following year that he found a purpose for this “useless” product. While admiring a floral arrangement he had gifted his wife, he began to ponder “if I could find a way to get water into foam, perhaps it would be used as a base for floral arrangements”. It was because of this very moment that Oasis Floral Foam was born. Smithers soon after established the first production facility in Kent, Ohio in 1953.
The new foam was quite the buzz within the industry, with fierce marketing by floral commentator: Mrs. Ethel “Tommy” Bright. Mrs. Bright would eventually become the official spokesperson for the new Oasis Floral Foam. Before the times of absorbent foam, florist secured their designs using a number of materials including chicken wire, cedar greens and newspaper. They would use these materials as filler at the bottom of containers. Flowers before this time would shift within the arrangements and ultimately could only last a day or two.
Floral foam has since advanced from its first introduction in 1954, even though the original 9″ x 4″ x 3″ block has virtually stayed the same. The original foam would take up to one hour to saturate, could not re-saturate and only lasted up to 5 days. Florists would often wrap the bricks with plastic in hopes of keeping the moisture inside the foam for longer periods of time. From the start, Oasis Floral Foam held up to 50x its weight in water, that still rings true today. The Floral Foam of the 21st Century will now saturate in one minute time. This new and improved version is now capable re-saturing while continuously allowing flowers to drink for the lifetime of the arrangement.
With its first beginnings in 1953 and then being officially patented in 1954, this industry staple has been around for over 60 years!! Still selling their original products, Oasis Floral has advanced right alongside the floral industry or maybe vise versa. The original patented Oasis Floral Foam is now available in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colors. Let’s not forget… netted bouquet holders as well as the production of flattened foam sheets and bars that helped bring floral designing to a whole new level. As an industry professional, we pride ourselves because of these ingenious cutting-edge companies. It is because of innovative minds such as V. L. Smithers that we are able to provide our customers with state-of-art, elaborate, creative designs. As trade professionals we are equipped. To our customers we deliver excellence. As a direct result we proudly stand within this full circle where we find the ultimate customer satisfied guarantee.