Local Picker Finds Historic Naval Lithograph

A massive 1888 chrome lithograph of the S.S. City of New York was acquired by local picker Brian Smith recently from a Nova Scotia estate. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

What if the Titanic had never made it out of the harbor? The infamous vessel, best known for striking an iceberg and sinking to the frozen depths of the Atlantic – claiming 1,503 lives as it did so – narrowly dodged a fateful moment as it was departing on its maiden voyage that would have changed history. On that day, April 11th, 1912, the Titanic almost collided with the S.S. City of New York while it was docked in the harbor. Today, a local picker has secured an interesting find related to the City of New York that has ties with the local area.

Brian Smith has been a picker for more than two decades, and in that amount of time he’s found some fairly incredible historic items. Recently, he recovered a log from a Machias notary that recorded the testimony of shipmasters that experienced shipwrecks along the local coast.

While this find is also related to naval history, the circumstances are a bit different. Smith acquired a massive chrome lithograph of the City of New York from an estate in Nova Scotia after hearing about it from a friend in Oak Bay. The lithograph, which measures 32” x 47” in its frame and weighs upwards of 30 pounds, is dated to 1888, the same year that the City of New York was built.

The British-built City of New York was known in its time for its impressive, record-breaking speed of 20.11 knots; later it served as a troop transport vessel in the Spanish American War. When the Titanic nearly struck it, it was tied up in the harbor, but the passage of the massive ship caused it to break away from the quay. The captain of the Titanic skillfully maneuvered his vessel away, sparing the collision – but ultimately contributing to the ship’s later demise.

The deceased passengers of the Titanic, once recovered, were brought to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they were ceremoniously buried in a graveyard not far from where the lithograph of the City of New York was housed. Smith found a surprising connection with this area when he learned that the gravestones used for the Titanic passengers are from a St. Stephen quarry.

As a final connection with the area, Smith opened the lithograph’s frame and looked behind it to find an intact issue of The Boston Globe from October 7th, 1888. Listed in the newspaper’s incoming ships are several vessels from Maine, including from Calais. “I said to myself, ‘Wow – I know this has never been touched,” Smith said. “Somebody lined it right after they purchased it.”


After doing some research via eBay and Google, Smith concluded that only two other chrome lithographs of the City of New York have been sold online since 1993, making it a rare find in and of itself. Smith plans to sell the piece.