Mr. Smart was the president of the American Cold Storage and Shipping Co., and lived at the Victoria Hotel in New York. When he travelled to England, he simply checked out of the hotel, and took all of his personal belongings with him. Some of those who knew him stated after his death that he went by 'Jim' leading them to believe his first name was James. As his name appears on the Titanic's passenger list as 'John M. Smart' it is possible his friends and acquaintances would not have realised he had been on board except that one of his fellow passengers was Frederic K. Seward, an attorney with the law firm which represented his company. Mr. Smart's friends understood he was originally from Massachusetts. It was believed he had a wife who died around 1902, and that he had two children, George and Annie, who after their mother's death were placed in private school in Europe. While in London prior to sailing. Mr. Smart told friends that his children were in that city with him. By 1912 they would have been aged 20 and 18. Preliminary estimates of his wealth ranged from $20,000 to over $100.000, yet all his personal records including the location of his children had gone down with him.
A world-wide search was begun for the two children who were never located. The valuation of Mr. Smart's estate dwindled to less than $10,000, while the number of creditors grew. A will dated 1897 leaving everything to two friends in Australia and no mention of his wife and children was thought to be fictitious. A porter at the Victoria Hotel recalled mailing a package to the children for Mr. Smart but couldn't recall the address.
The will was further questioned by a business associate of Smart's who claimed the signature was not his and that his name was James rather than John as was signed on the document. This was disputed by other associates.
The search for the children was dropped. Perhaps they had money from their mother's estate, and because their father's was so small, and, with the publicity, chose to remain anonymous. The 1897 will was accepted by the court and settled.