Bush was born in Granite Falls, Minnesota, and worked on the family farm as a youth, but his hay fever encouraged him to move to Duluth and study business. In 1914, he was hired as sales manager for the then-struggling 3M, working under the management of William L. McKnight, and helped the firm's rise from near-bankruptcy to large-scale profitability. He remained sales manager for some decades; in the late 1940s he was elected executive vice-president, and from 1949 to his death in 1966 he was chair of the company's executive committee. He purchased considerable 3M stock early on, and made a fortune during the company's turnaround, in addition to his roles in numerous other businesses; he used part of this fortune, estimated at $200 million at his death, to establish the charitable Bush Foundation in 1953, with much of the remainder of his fortune going to the foundation upon his death. He died in 1966, and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Saint Paul.
- Stew Thornley (2004). Six Feet Under: A Graveyard Guide to Minnesota. Minnesota Historical Society Press. p. 125. ISBN 0-87351-514-5.
- Waldemar A. Nielsen (2002). Golden Donors: A New Anatomy of the Great Foundations. Transaction Publishers. pp. 377–379. ISBN 0-7658-0912-5.
- Clifford E. Clark (1989). Minnesota in a Century of Change: The State and Its People Since 1900. Minnesota Historical Society Press. p. 228. ISBN 0-87351-238-3.