Artie Edmunds was one of the first stars of Toronto wrestling. He was often billed as the Canadian featherweight champion over a career that spanned at least from 1901-1919 and probably longer.
In 1901, Edmunds became the national amateur champion at 115 pounds by winning a tournament sanctioned by the Canadian Amateur Athletic Union (CAAU), held in Toronto at the Mutual Street Arena. The referee for the final was Bob Harrison, who was probably Toronto's most famous wrestler of the 19th century.
Not only did Edmunds repeat at the 1902 tournament in Ottawa, he also made it to the final in the boxing championship before losing. Edmunds would become a professional in both wrestling and boxing, and would be billed as the Canadian featherweight champion in both sports.
Edmunds regularly wrestled at the Star Theatre in Toronto, a notorious burlesque house that would often book one wrestler for a week to take on all comers. St. Andrew's Hall, the Labor Temple, and the Riverdale Roller Rink were some other Toronto venues that hosted werestling cards with Edmunds in the main event.
Because of his light weight, Edmunds frequently wrestled in handicap matches where his heavier opponent would have to defeat him two or more times within a set time period. If the opponent was unable to do so, it would be considered a victory for Edmunds.
In 1904, Edmunds was running a boxing and wrestling school on Queen Street West three days a week. Later that year, the Star printed an enthusiastic review of Edmunds's vaudeville act, described as "a combination of physical culture and bag punching."
A month later, Edmunds was booked to face Major -- a 200-pound wrestling pony. "He may not know anything about strangle holds and full Nelsons, but he has a knack of landing on his feet like a cat," said the Star of Major. "Edmunds is risking a lot in the bout, for the pony has already killed a man." A film was supposed to be made of the match. The pony's owner pulled out at the last minute, and instead Edmunds fought a full-sized thoroughbred, who by all accounts was having his way with Edmunds when the police stepped in to stop the bout following a complaint of animal cruelty.
Before the year ended, Edmunds travelled to New York and spent much of 1905 and 1906 boxing there. By this point he was competing at 125 pounds . The Star said he was "much in demand" at the boxing clubs in New York. He was booked to wrestle Young Roeber -- billed as New York's featherweight champion -- in March 1906. He boxed Jack Britton, who would go on to become world welterweight champion, in New York in February 1908.
Edmunds returned to Toronto and helped spark what the Star described as a "wave of interest in wrestling sweeping over Ontario." He announced his retirement at the end of 1908, but it didn't last long. He lost a match in March 1909 to Kid Batten at the Star Theatre, but won the rematch a few weeks later. He was also working as a referee at this time, overseeing the match between Yankee Rogers and Hassan Abdullah at the Star.
In 1910, Edmunds went an a tour of Australia and was thinking about going to England and France.
The following year, he worked as the referee for the two highest-profile matches that had ever been held in Toronto to that point: George Hackenschmidt vs Dr. B.F. Roller and Frank Gotch vs Giovanni (John) Perelli.
Edmunds and his younger brothers Fred and Jack -- who were also wrestlers and boxers, although not as successful -- were all reported to have enlisted to fight in WWI late in 1914. Art was discharged from the army because he had lost an eye while boxing in New York. Fred was injured at Vimy Ridge as was said to have had two fingers shot off.
Edmunds continued to be billed as Canadian featherweight champion, and after he lost in straight falls in 1919 against Jack Forbes -- later a prominent referee in Toronto -- Edmunds insisted his title wasn't at stake.
Along with being a wrestler and boxer, Edmunds was also known in the bodybuilding world, such as it was in those days.
Edmunds's wrestling and boxing career had already ended when he was run over by a streetcar at the intersection of Keele and Dundas in 1922. Both of his legs were crushed and one of his feet was nearly amputated.
An Eaton's ad in 1923 said that Edmunds would be at the main Toronto store for six hours to answer questions on gymnasium equipment. Later in the year, he placed an ad of his own in the Star for his services as a health, strength, and "physical perfection" consultant.
In 1928, Edmunds tried to get a boxing license but was turned down by the Ontario Athletic Commission because of his age. He was reportedly 46 at the time, although there are some inconsistencies in his reported age and he may have shaved a couple of years off at some point. At the time, the Globe called him "one of the greatest small athletes ever developed in this country."
He was working as an instructor at a camp in Bowmanville in 1935 -- and known as Prof. Arthur Edmunds -- when he drowned off Symons Beach.