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.