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Polyurethane Foam Industry Pioneers
Updated: 2011-06-02 00:00 Source: share:

The Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA) has announced the posthumous induction of two prominent foam industry pioneers and innovators into the Flexible Polyurethane Foam Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony took place during the PFA's Spring General Business Meeting in May in Baltimore, Md.

Bob Bush, Sr., one of the Hall of Fame inductees, was a founding father of the Polyurethane Foam Association. He played a pivotal role in the development of the flexible polyurethane foam and furniture industries throughout his 50-year career at Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company, one of the largest polyurethane foam producers in the country.

Accepting the Hall of Fame honor for Bob Bush, Sr. were his sons Bob Bush, Jr. and Jimmy Bush.  Both are members of the Hickory Springs Manufacturing Co. management team and, following in their father's career path, are active members of the U.S. flexible polyurethane foam, furniture and bedding industries.

Also inducted was E. Rhodes Carpenter, founder of one of the world's leading producers of comfort cushioning products. Forbes ranked E.R. Carpenter, commonly known as Carpenter Co., as one of the top 300 largest privately-held companies in the U.S., and one of the few to pass the $1 billion sales mark.

Ed Malechek, president of Carpenter Co., Myron H. (Bud) Reinhart, retired president of Carpenter Co., and Ann Day, E. Rhodes Carpenter's step-daughter and president and chair of the board of directors of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, accepted the Hall of Fame honor on behalf of E. Rhodes Carpenter.

The purpose of the Flexible Polyurethane Foam Hall of Fame, housed virtually at, is to recognize individuals and corporations who have significantly contributed to the growth and betterment of the flexible polyurethane foam industry in North America.

Bios of the two 2011 inductees:

Bob Bush, Sr. was one of the founding fathers of the Polyurethane Foam Association and has been described by many as a pioneer and a legendary figure in the flexible polyurethane foam industry. Bush spent his entire 50-year career at Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company, where his energy, ambition, drive and innovative ideas contributed not only to the success of the company, but also to the growth and success of the polyurethane foam industry as a whole. When Bush's career began in 1953, latex foam rubber was king, and Hickory Springs was buying molded slabs of latex cushioning material from producers in northern states and reselling fabricated products to customers. Bush suspected that a plastic foam could compete with latex, so he sought support for experiments that could result in the development an acceptable plastic substitute for foam rubber. By the time Bush retired in 2002 as executive vice president of sales, Hickory Springs had grown to become one of the largest flexible polyurethane foam producers in the country. The company ranks among North Carolina's largest private employers and has more than 50 manufacturing plants in 16 states and China. Those who worked with Bush describe him as one of the chief architects of Hickory Springs' success. One innovation that Bush championed was positioning Hickory Springs' facilities where they could provide a strategic advantage to customers who were unable to maintain large raw material inventories. In the 1960s, he established an effective "just in time" delivery program. Bush also played an important role in the development of the flexible polyurethane foam and furniture industries through his service as a founding member of the PFA, through his involvement with the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA), and as president of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association's Suppliers Council. He received the Exceptional Service Award and the Robert MacMorran Award from ISPA, and was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 2006. Bush died in January 2010 in Hickory, North Carolina, at age 78. His legacy lives on through his sons Bobby and Jimmy.

E. Rhodes Carpenter, founder of Carpenter Co., built his company from a distributor of Goodyear latex foam rubber into one of the world's leading producers of comfort cushioning products.  After his graduation from Hampden-Sydney College in 1929, Carpenter began working at Crawford Manufacturing Company, a Richmond manufacturer of textiles that his father had founded with two partners. By the time WWII ended, Carpenter had decided to go into business for himself. He formed Southern Foam Rubber Co. when the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. allotted him the distribution territory of Virginia and North Carolina. In addition, he formed E.R. Carpenter Co. to manufacture various latex foam-containing products. In the early years, distributing foam rubber was quite profitable, but soon, competition began to erode profits. At that time, polyurethane foam technology was rapidly developing and Rhodes decided to pour polyurethane foam to supplement the latex foam rubber market. The company's first polyurethane foam pour line began in 1962 in Richmond, VA. It wasn't too long before the latex foam market dropped under pressure from less expensive polyurethane foams. Soon, Southern Foam Rubber Co. fell by the wayside and E. R. Carpenter Co. led the way. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Carpenter's company continued to grow - introducing flexible foam carpet cushioning and foam for automotive applications and establishing a chemical company to produce polyol. Carpenter built manufacturing facilities in Texas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, Canada, Mississippi, Florida, Pennsylvania, and California. Eventually the company expanded its operations throughout Western Europe. Carpenter Co. now has 19 foam production plants, 4,700 employees and 56 global locations. Carpenter Co. was ranked by Forbes as the 247th largest privately-held U.S. company and one of only 305 to pass the $1 billion sales mark.  Carpenter semi-retired in 1965 and died in 1980. His legacy lives on through the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, which was founded in 1975.

 About PFA

The Polyurethane Foam Association was founded in 1980 to educate customers and other groups about flexible polyurethane foam (FPF) products. This includes providing facts on environmental, health and safety issues, and technical information on the performance of FPF in consumer and industrial products. The PFA membership includes U.S. FPF manufacturers and their suppliers of raw materials, processing and fabrication equipment, and various industry services. For more information, visit


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