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John Clarke Innes was born in London, Ontario on March 17, 1863. He was a painter, illustrator, writer, rancher, surveyor, and inventor. Innes was educated in England before returning to Canada and heading west as a surveyor and mapmaker for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s. He settled in Alberta for a number of years where he ranched while contributing cartoons, illustrations, and articles to various publications and also publishing a newspaper, Mountain Echoes, with Charles Halpin. After serving in the Boer War, Innes returned to Ontario and then moved to New York where he worked as a staff artist for Hearst Newspapers.
Around 1913 Innes settled in Vancouver where he continued to draw and paint, focusing on elements of western Canadian history and industry such as exploration, logging, mining, fishing, agriculture, and transportation. Two series of Innes’ paintings were collected and curated for exhibition: The Epic of Western Canada and From Trail to Rail: The Epic of Transportation. In Vancouver these were exhibited at the Hudson’s Bay Company and the David Spencer department store; they were also shown in Europe. Innes continued to do commercial work, including cartoons for newspapers and illustrations for publications and advertisements.
Innes married Ida May Sanford in 1899 and had a family including a son, George Dean Innes. Innes died in Vancouver on January 13, 1941.