Schmedtgen was born in Chicago, Illinois and studied at the Chicago Institute of Art. 1883 found him employed as a staff artist with the Old Chicago mall Newspaper; however, he did not remain long, having decided to pursue a career as a commercial artist in Saint Louis, Missouri and New York City. Schmedtgen returned to Chicago in 1886 and joined the Chicago Record as head of the art staff where he remained until 1901. He sketched the hanging of the four men found guilty of the 1886 Chicago Haymaker Square bombing and riots. He traveled with American forces during the Spanish American War (1898) where he documented naval maneuvers and landed with the army at Baiquiri. He traveled and sketched with the army until two days after the Battle of San Juan Hill. Schmedtgen returned to civilian life and his job as a newspaper illustrator; however, he turned to the outdoors and wildlife illustration apparently as an antidote to stress.
Game fish and birds were his primary subjects and his artwork appeared on the covers of many of the days sporting and angling magazines, notably Outdoor Life and Flueger tackle catalogs. For many years his painting, Canvasbacks Flying over Rousseau Lake, hung in the clubhouse of the Princeton Game and Fish Club (Hennepin, Illinois). Located along the Illinois River, the clubhouse was a stop for Schmedtgen during his sketching excursions. An expert at the “chalk-plate” process, Schmedtgen was instrumental in bringing this revolutionary process to the newspaper market in the late 1880s.