by J. Homer Thiel
John Montgomery Smart was born circa 1866 or 1867. His place of birth is not known, but he was described as being from New York and Boston, Massachusetts in Australian newspaper accounts. During his lifetime he went by a number of different names: J. Montgomery Smart, John M. Smart, John Montgomery Smart, James Montgomery Smart, J. M. Smart, and Jim Smart. In the following discussion, the usage of his name in each source is reported.
Smart was an interesting man, one who moved about on three continents in search of business opportunities and also because he apparently was quite secretive about his past. His closest acquaintances knew little about his life. The digitization of newspapers and indexing of ship manifests has provided much new information about this elusive man, although many mysteries remain.
An advertisement in a Sydney newspaper in May 1884 provides some background data: INFORMATION wanted of J. M. SMART, of New York, U.S.A., who went to Hamilton, Canada, in 1879, and supposed to have gone to Australia in 1883; will hear of something to his interest by application to McKelcin, Gibson, and Bell, Hamilton, Canada.
The 1881 census lists a John Smart, born in 1865 in Ontario, living in the household of William Arnott in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. This is the only John Smart listed in Hamilton in that census.
Another newspaper account links the advertised J. M. Smart to Montgomery Smart. The story states that Montgomery Smart arrived in Australia in 1883 and became friends with Mr. Jeremiah Twomey, editor of the “Farmer and Grazier” and Mrs. A. S. Brown of Sydney. The two helped him out financially when money did not arrive from the United States. Smart lived in Sydney and later worked as a cool storage expert.
There were at least two J. M. Smarts in Australia in the 1880s and 1890s. One was a lawyer, frequently listed in newspaper accounts relating to trials. The other appears to be John Montgomery Smart. A Mrs. J. M. Smart also appears in many newspaper articles exhibiting cattle and sheep in agricultural fairs, but she does not appear to be the wife of John Montgomery Smart.
After his arrival in Australia, J. M. Smart worked as a salesman, based in Sydney but frequently traveling to other communities. On 27 May 1884, J. M. Smart sailed for Townsville on the Leura. In June 1884, J. M. Smart of Sydney visited the towns of Darling Downs, Warwick, Brisbane, and Roma selling a book called “Treasury of Song.” The volume was “handsomely bound in morocco gilt.” In Warwick he stayed at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. On 28 June 1884, J. M. Smart sailed on the Burwah for Maryborough and Rockhampton.
Smart appears on many passenger lists in Australia in 1884 and 1885. On 20 January 1885, J. M. Smart was a passenger aboard the steamer Keilawarra, heading to Brisbane, Martborough, and Rockhampton. A man named J. M. Smart sailed on 30 May 1885 on the steamer Katoomba from Sydney to Melbourne. J. M. Smart also sailed from Sydney on the steamer Burwah on 28 July 1885, heading to Brisbane.
In January 1890, J. S. Smart of “New York” was an overland passenger (probably in a stage coach) heading to Sydney, passing through the town of Albury. A few years later, J. M. Smart “of Boston, U.S.A.” was the “supporter” (witness) of J. A. Keil at his marriage to Frances Anastatia Wellard at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Sydney on 26 April 1893.
Smart moved from being a traveling salesman to in inventor and entrepreneur in the mid-1890s. J. M. Smart submitted a provisional patent application (No. 4,094) for an “improved process of preserving fresh fruits, vegetable products, and other articles and substances of food from decay without the use of refrigeration” in 1895.
Australia and New Zealand had a food surplus, as well as some exotic foodstuffs, like pineapple, that were wanted by people living in the United States and England. New advances in refrigeration, like the method developed by Smart, allowed food to be cooled or frozen and transported long distances. To develop contacts and pursue contracts, Smart began to travel back and forth from Australia to the United States, a trip that could takes three or four weeks on a steam-powered vessel.
J. M. Smart sailed Cabin class aboard the steamer Mariposa, from Sydney on 23 December 1895, traveled to Auckland and then Apia [Samoa], left Honolulu on 9 January 1896, and arrived in San Francisco on 16 January 1896. He registered at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, telling the clerk he was heading to Washington, D.C. J. M. Smart claimed that he was a United States special agent of the Department of Agriculture and that he had “been on a tour of Australia to obtain information concerning the beef, mutton, butter and cheese products and exports.” He described being at the Antipodes for six months, visiting the Coolgardne gold mines, and described to a newspaper reporter the beef, mutton, cheese, and butter production of Australia and New Zealand, noting that the products were frozen and shipped.
In February 1896 it was reported that the J. M. Smart who had been telling people that he was a "special agent of the department of agriculture" while on a tour in Australia, was not an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture. The Department’s Secretary Morton made the statement.
By mid-February 1896, J. M. Smart was in Chicago, where he made a deal with Dr. A. T. Perkins, who had “patented a process of keeping meats, fruits and perishable products during transportation by the use of sterilized air.” Smart was manager of the Australian Meat Transportation Corporation. He hoped to ship Australian meat and fruit to warehouses in London and Manchester.
By March 1896, J. M. Smart was back in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel, apparently planning to sail on the Cambridge. Instead, he left San Francisco on the R.M.S. Monowai and arrived in Honolulu on 16 March 1896. One of the other through passengers was Professor Alexander Agassiz, son of famed botanist Louis Agassiz. Smart arrived at Auckland on Sunday, 29 March 1896.
While he was away in the United States, J. M. Smart’s application for a gold mining lease at Little Yarra Junction was declared abandoned. He had apparently been dabbling in gold mining at the time.
In August 1896, John M. Smart, “partner in the Dr. Perkins Company of Chicago,” attended the Perishable Products Committee meeting in Traralgon, Victoria and described how the company owned 1,000 [rail] cars used for transporting fruit.
In October 1896, John Montgomery Smart of Melbourne, Australia, received a patent for an “improved process of preserving fresh fruits, vegetable products, and other articles and substances of food from decay without the use of refrigerants.” Two patents (the second was for a preserving apparatus) were issued on 20 April 1897, at which time John Montgomery Smart was living at 34 Queenstreet in Melbourne.
In November 1896, J. M. Smart applied for a gold mining lease for a mine called “The Mighty Dollar G. M. Co.” In February 1897, J. M. Smart was an overland passenger for Brisbane.
In early August 1897, J. Smart arrived in Sydney aboard the Mariposa. He came as a representative of the American firm Perkins & Co. He was in Sydney investigating the possibilities of exporting fruit, including pineapples. He apparently left without securing any contracts. His stay was very brief. J. M. Smart arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on 18 August 1897 aboard the O.S.S. Mariposa, traveling from the "Colonies." He returned to the Palace Hotel, checking in on either the 26th or 27th of August.
John M. Smart, of New York, arrived at the Auditorium Annex Hotel in Chicago, traveling from Apia, Samoa in September 1897. In his possession was a kava root. He reported that the root was "used in greeting distinguished travelers and at the coronation of some new king[s]." The kava root was grown in Haivida, Samoa, and was 11-years-old. He had been given the root by Consul-General Churchill of Samoa on 11 August 1897, who had received it from King Malietoa Laupepa.
By the late 1890s, Smart appears to have moved permanently from Australia to New York City and London. His business dealings increasingly required him to travel across the Atlantic Ocean. In August 1899, J. Montgomery Smart incorporated the American Sterilized Air and Transportation Company, capital value of five million dollars, along with two other men.
In 1900 it was reported that the Southampton Cold Storage Company in Southampton, England was building a cold storage plant. J. Montgomery Smart was described as an expert on cold storage and he stated that England was importing immense quantities of eggs and dairy products from the United States.
In June 1900, J. Montgomery Smart was engaged to teach a course on “cold storage as applied to farm and dairy products” at Briarcliff Manor in New York. New Zealand and other British colonies were shipping frozen foods in greater quantities and there was a concern that the United States was not keeping up with the trade.
On 31 March 1901, John Montgomery Smart was a visitor living at St. Martin in the Fields in London, England when the census was taken.
J. Montgomery Smart returned to New York City on the St. Paul in May 1901 along with Edgar B. Griffiths. The two men had gone to England to negotiate with the Leyland Shipping Company to purchase vessels. They planned to ship farm and dairy products. Smart was president and general manager of the American Cold Storage and Shipping Company, with offices in the Produce Exchange Building at the time. That company had warehouses in Southampton and Manchester, England.
Smart was viewed as an expert of refrigeration by the early 1900s and was asked to teach the cold storage course at the School of Practical Agriculture and Horticulture at Briarcliff Manner in the summer of 1901.
Smart also appears to have become wealthy and somewhat reckless with his money. In September 1901, Montgomery Smart "of the produce exchange" bet $10,000 that the yacht Shamrock would not win a racing cup. In October 1901, two blocks of land on the North River were to be purchased for $3,750,000 by the Southampton Cold Storage and Lairage Company of Southampton. J. Montgomery Smart was the chief representative of the endeavor, “He is an expert on cold storage, having been engaged in this work for several years in Australia and other countries.”
In February 1902, J. M. Smart was scheduled to speak at the Eastern New York Horticultural Society meeting on the topic of "Cold Storage."
John M. Smart sailed on the S. S. St. Paul on 27 December 1902 from Southampton and arrived in New York City on 4 January 1903. He was listed as being 36-years-old. Smart had been in England negotiating the takeover of the Southampton Cold Storage Company by an Anglo-American syndicate comprised of the Morgan shipping combination, the London and Southwestern Railway Company, and the American Cold Storage Company.
J. M. Smart (age 38) left Southampton on 2 January 1904 aboard the S. S. New York, arriving in New York City on 10 January 1904. J. M. Smart (no age listed) made another trip aboard the S. S. St. Paul, leaving Southampton on 25 June 1904 and arriving in New York City on 2 July 1904.
John Montgomery Smart was elected a member of the American Society of Refrigerating Engineers in 1904.
In December 1904, James Montgomery Smart, of the Produce Exchange, decided at the last minute to go to England on the White Star liner Majestic. A friend carried his dress suit case to the pier, the Majestic left, and three minutes later Smart’s cab showed up. His baggage was thrown onto a hand truck and Smart signaled a tug, which collected him and chased down the liner blowing its whistle. At the Battery it stopped and Smart was able to board.
John M. Smart sailed on the S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm II, leaving Southampton on 27 March 1907 and arriving in New York City on 3 April 1907. He was listed as being 40-years-old, an American citizen, last residence London, and a merchant.
In January 1910, J. Montgomery Smart, Ernest Armstrong, and Albert S. Rockwood chartered the J. L. C. Company in Jersey City, New Jersey. "The company is to deal in stocks, bonds, securities, etc."
The 1911 New York City directory lists J. Montgomery Smart as the President of the Produce Exchange, living at the Hotel Victoria. He was also the foreign representative of the Graphite Lubricating Company.
In the Spring of 1912, Smart "left New York for London... to attend the annual meeting of the Southampton Cold Storage & Ice Company."
Smart stated he was living at 3 Woodend Cottage, Kildale via Grosmont, York when he purchased a first class ticket for the Titanic (No. 113792 for 26 pounds 11 shillings). He boarded the vessel at Southampton.
Smart was joined on the Titanic by his lawyer Frederick K. Seward of the law firm of Curtis, Mallet-Provost & Colt. Seward had gone with Smart to help with a business deal. Seward had known Smart for eight years "and had thought he was intimately acquainted with him. The fact that he was really in ignorance of the essential facts of Smart's life only became apparent when he attempted to lift the veil. With his many talks with Smart, Mr. Seward inferred that he was born in Massachusetts, and that he was about fifty years old. He was astonished to find that all he knew about Smart was that he was tall, robust and had a florid face and a gray moustache, and that he knew how to be very attractive to men when he cared to be." Smart had told other people that he had two children,that his wife had died about ten years ago, that he was related to Cardinal McCloskey, and that he had set aside $200,000 for his children. Much of what he claimed could never be verified and it seems likely that he was a story-teller.
Smart did not survive the sinking of the Titanic. His body was never identified.
After the Titanic sank some people believed Smart had left behind two children. An advertisement appeared in numerous newspapers including one in Springfield, Massachusetts: INFORMATION WANTED REGARDING WHEREABOUTS OF MRS COOK. A friend of the late Mrs. J. Montgomery Smart, formerly of Springfield, who has charge of George and Annie Smart, children of J. Montgomery Smart, who was lost on the "Titanic." Please communicate with CURTIS, MALLET-PREVOST & COLT, 30 Broad street, New York City.
While a John Smart did live in Springfield, Massachusetts, this man worked as a laborer and was not the same man as J. Montgomery Smart.
Smart's will, prepared in 1897, was sent from Australia by Jeremiah Twomey, who lived in Melbourne. It stated: "This is the last Will & Testament of me, John Montgomery Smart of Melbourne, Victoria. After payment of all my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses I give devise and bequeath unto Jeremiah Twomey of 52 Market Street Melbourne, Victoria and Anne Francis Brown all my real and personal property in the following manner viz: one third to Jeremiah Twomey and two thirds to Anne Francis Brown. And I hereby appoint Jeremiah Twomey of 52 Market St. Melborune Executor of this my last Will." The will was witnessed by Kenneth M. Cox and Lizzie Anderson.
The willt was filed in New York City. Constance H. Baldwin stepped forward and claimed that the signature on the will, John Montgomery Smart, was not his. The Surrogate Court in New York City disagreed and admitted the Will to probate.
Brown and Twomey were reported to be very surprised when they learned of the amount of their inheritance. Baldwin’s claims were not successful. In December 1912, it was reported that Twomey, a farmer living in Melbourne, and Mrs. A. L. Brown of Sydney, were to share 16,000 pounds. However, the value of Smart’s estate would later be estimated at $9,890, including $3,000 in cash in a bank and stock in the American Cold Storage and Shipping Company valued at $6,090. His stock in the lubricating company was thought to be worthless.
In May 1913, Constance Baldwin brought suit against the United States Casualty Company to recover $3,000 on an accident policy on the life of J. Montgomery Smart. She was a partner in the American Cold Storage and Shipping Company and claimed she was the beneficiary on the policy.
By February 1914, Frederick Seward reported that his investigations had failed to locate the two purported children and he no longer believed they existed.
Constance Baldwin continued to contest the settlement of Smart's estate. In January 1916, she filed suit because creditors to the estate were informed via mail instead of by a published notice. In March 1917, Jeremiah Twomey published an advertisement in the London Gazette asking that creditors submit any claims against Smart’s estate.
In the end, it would appear that Smart was never married and never had two children. Why did he lead others to believe this was the case? Perhaps he was a man who spun yarns to entertain others. Or perhaps it was because a man of his age was expected to have been married and a father. It is likely that new information will surface, as more records are made available online
Canada Census, 1881,index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MVFJ-NHK : accessed 10 March 2015), John Smart in household of William Arnott, Ward No. 3, Hamilton (City), Ontario, Canada; citing p. 79; Library and Archives Canada film number C-13256, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 1,375,892.
England and Wales Census, 1901, index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X9D4-T1C : accessed 10 March 2015), John Montgomery Smart, St Martin In The Fields, London, Middlesex, England; from 1901 England, Scotland and Wales census, index and images, findmypast (www.findmypast.com : n.d.); citing county, registration district, subdistrict, PRO RG 13, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey.
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)
Marriages, Births, Deaths and Injuries, White Star Line 1912, Board of Trade 1912 (PRO London, BT 100/260).
New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957, online at Ancestry.com.
John Montgomery Smart's Last Will and Testament, online at New York Wills and Probate Records 1659-1999, online at Ancestry.com.
New York City Directory 1911, page 1386.
Bulletin of the American Warehousemen's Association, 1912, Volume 13:132.
Transactions, American Society of Refrigerating Engineers, 1904, Volume 1:22.
New York Supplement, (New York State Reporter, Vol. 191), Volume 157:143-144.
American Gardening, 1902, Volume 23:77.
Information Wanted, Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 10 May 1884, 20:2.
Clearances, Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 31 May 1884, 104:1.
Treasury of Song, Darling Downs Gazette (Queensland), 4 June 1884, 3:2.
Treasury of Song, Warwick Examiner and Times (Queensland), 18 June 1884, 2:5.
Departures, Queenslander (Brisbane, Queensland), 5 July 1884, 20:2.
Departures, Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW). 24 January 1885, 40:3.
Departures, Australian Town and Country Journal, (Sydney, NSW), 6 June 1885, 40:3.
Departures, Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), 1 August 1885, 39:3.
Overland Passengers to and from Sydney, Argus (Melbourne, Victoria), 7 January 1890, 5:7.
Keil-Wellard, Table Talk (Melbourne, Victoria), 12 May 1893, 19:1.
Applications, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA), 27 December 1895, 3:7.
From the Antipodes, San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), 16 January 1896, 5:3.
Palace Hotel, San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), 17 January 1896, 10:5.
Wonders of Coolgardie, San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), 19 January 1896, 9:4-5.
No Such Person Employed, Evening Telegraph (Adrian, MI), 14 February 1896, 1:3.
No Ice to Cut, Herald (Los Angeles, CA), 20 February 1896, 2:4.
Palace Hotel, San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), 4 March 1896, 13:8.
Gazette Notices, Healesville Guardian (Victoria), 13 March 1896, 3:1.
Passengers, Pacific Commercial Advertiser (Honolulu, HI), 16 March 1896, 8:2.
R.M.S. Monowai, Australasian (Melbourne, Victoria), 4 April 1896, 35:4.
Perishable Products Committee, Traralgon Record (Traralgon, Victoria), 21 August 1896, 3:2.
Gazette Notices, Healesville Guardian (Victoria), 6 November 1896, 3:3.
Patents, Western Mail (Perth), 8 November 1896, 31:4.
Overland Passengers, Queenslander (Brisbane, Queensland), 6 February 1897, 328:1.
Patents and Inventions, Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney), 1 May 1897, 36:1.
Additional Passengers, Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 3 August 1897, 6:8.
General News, Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Queensland), 6 August 1897, 2:5.
Passengers, Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 19 August 1897, 8:2.
Hotel Arrivals, San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), 27 August 1897, 10:2.
Has King Laupepa's Kava Root, Repository (Canton, OH), 3 October 1897, 21:1).
5,000,000 Sterilized Air Company, New York Times (New York City, NY), 5 August 1899.
Course of Study on Cold Storage, New-York Daily Tribune (New York City, NY), 11 June 1900, 5:5.
Topics in New York, Sun (Baltimore, MD), 17 October 1900, 6:7.
Several Millions Will be Invested, St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, MO), 17 October 1900, 4:2.
Two More Steamship Lines, New-York Tribune (New York City, NY), 28 May 1901, 1.
Making Scientific Farmers, New-York Tribune (New York City, NY), 25 August 1901, 20:5.
Five to Three on Defender, Denver Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), 4 September 1901, 7:4.
London Latest News, New-York Tribune (New York City, NY), 10 January 1903, 2:1.
Caught the Majestic with Help of Tug, The Evening World (New York City, NY), 21 December 1904, 3:3.
New Corporations, Trenton Evening Times, 19 January 1910, 12:5.
Bound Brook Interest in the Wreck, Chronicle, 19 April 1912.
Advertisement, Springfield Republican (Springfield, MA), 3 May 1912, 3:2.
Titanic Windfall, Tamworth Daily Observer (NSW), 7 December 1912, 2:4.
Legacies, Sydney Morning Herald (NSA), 7 December 1912, 24:5.
Another Myth of Smart, New York Times (New York City, NY), 16 January 1913.
Mysterious J. Montgomery Smart, San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), 15 June 1913, 20:5.
Finds Smart, Titanic Victim, Died Childless, Washington Times (Washington, DC), 6 February 1914, 4:1.
New Titanic Disaster Suit, New-York Tribune (New York City, NY), 25 May 1913, 11:6.
Prattle About People, Punch (Melbourne, Victoria), 14 January 1915, 8:2-3.
London Gazette (London, England), 16 March 1917.