Man in Boat Painting by Vic Sparks

$_1[1]I am interested in identifying the setting of this painting. It probably is near Skagway, maybe on Long Bay. The mountains in the background may provide some idea as might the rocks in the foreground. If you have an idea please share with me. Thank you, Sheila Sparks Ralph




As promised, the cartoon below shows the outcome of the presidential election of 1908. Miss Democracy tells the bruised and wounded Byran to go back home and sink into oblivion.


About Vic Sparks

Vic Sparks

Victor Leroy Sparks was born August 31, 1884 in Portland, Oregon. His father was Winfield Scott Sparks; his mother was Charrie Marie (Denny) Sparks. Although he states he arrived in Skagway on May 25, 1901 the earliest confirmed date of him being in Skagway, Alaska is the 1903 Alaska and Yukon Gazetteer which lists him as an upholsterer for ER Peoples. In 1906 he attended Art School in San Francisco and was there during the earthquake in April of that year. He may be related to Will Sparks, a noted California artist, who was an Assistant Professor in Perspective and Sketching at the school. His work in cartoons may have been influenced by Rube Goldberg who was a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle at the time.

The earliest examples of his work are found in 1908 in Skagway’s weekly paper, The Interloper. He was a political cartoonist—later blogs will showcase some of these. Vic’s life portrays a mélange of occupations: he worked for the White Pass &Yukon Route (WP&YR) railroad as a Blacksmith Helper, Fireman, and Engineer. He was a general handyman, Customs Agent, fisherman, artist, longshoreman, and headstone maker. In 1930 he was deputized as a US Marshall to help capture an escaped convict (another story). For many years he portrayed the sheriff in “The Days of ′98” review, a popular tourist attraction. He taught painting to many children of Skagway and did paintings and show cards for the Elks, Artic Brotherhood, and various functions. Each time a new person came or left Skagway he did a Rube Goldberg type card; town residents would sign them. He was the face of Skagway in some National Geographic advertisements for tourism.

Blog #2 Searching for Picture of the Princess Louise

Sourdough Artist Blog #2

In this blog I will depict another Parlor Car Painting and ask for your help in obtaining a photograph of the Princess Louise coming in to Dock; this painting was referred to in a letter written to my father in 1946.

WP&YR PARLOR CAR PAINTING: Tent on Lake, Mountains


Tent on Lake with Mountains in Background

My hope is that someone will recognize this scene and be able to tell me the exact location, i.e. name of lake, mountain, and any other description. The next blog will present another query. As promised here is one of Vic’s political cartoons:


The Interloper, October 31, 1908: William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft are running for president; next week’s cartoon will show the winner.

Vic Sparks and the Mystery of the Railroad Parlor Car Paintings


In a quest to memorialize my grandfather, Victor Leroy Sparks, I hope to track down and document as many of his paintings and other works as possible. I have amassed pictures of his artwork but would now like to identify the settings and possible time period for each one. Many of his paintings depict scenes from the Klondike Gold Rush; some of them show sights along the passage that are no longer visible (e.g. City of Dyea). I am starting with his Railroad Parlor Car paintings since I know a little about them

The Mystery of the Railroad Parlor Car Paintings

In 1946 Vic was commissioned by the White Pass and Yukon Route (a narrow gauge railroad built in 1899 to carry prospectors to the Yukon Territory in search of gold) to paint a picture for each of the train’s Parlor Cars; these were used for tourists during their narrow gauge railroad trip to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. In a series of letters to my father Vic writes: July 1946: Princess Louise coming in to dock, rotary made, steel bridge expect to make; March 1947: “Big one for WP “Bennett Church painting in car”; August 1946 “now in  5 cars, 2 more in shop, starting one of, 3 more to make”. Each painting is 24”x30”.

The first painting was of the Old Church at Lake Bennett, BC; it was built in 1899 under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church.  This orientation looks down Lake Bennett which is the course prospectors used to go to the Klondike Gold Rush. My father, Peter Winfield Sparks took the photograph from which Vic painted it. Most other pictures of the church are viewed from the side-see second picture.

Parlor Car: Church at Lake Bennett

Church at Lake Bennett, from the collection of the White Pass and Yukon Route

Church at Lake Bennett

Collection of Mark and Edie Lee

This painting was done in the 1950’s and is in a private collection. The church still stands and can be seen at the Bennett Stop of the WP&YR railroad trip or as a stop on the Chilkoot Trail hiking path.

I believe there were about 15 parlor car paintings; I have photographs of several of them and am seeking evidence of the others. Six of the Parlor Car Paintings were stolen in 1971. Read my next blog to find out more about the parlor car paintings and see a sample of Vic’s cartoons.