A member of a prominent Toronto family, Jarvis apprenticed as a banker, and eventually became president of the Trader's Bank of Canada. Jarvis founded the Steel Company of Canada. He built Toronto's iconic King Edward Hotel and created the British Columbia Salmon Canning Industry. Jarvis also formed AEmilius Jarvis & Co., earning the friendship and respect of such men as Lord Minto (Governor General of Canada), J.P. Morgan, Sir Thomas Lipton, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Henry Pellatt, and world-champion rower Ned Hanlan. He was the most celebrated yachtsman, and winning-est skipper, on the Great Lakes in his time. Jarvis was instrumental in forming the Royal Canadian Navy during World War I, recruiting both ships and men, & acted as a spy for King George V while visiting Tzar Nicholas of Russia in 1915. He also operated a famously successful stud farm -called Hazelburn- in Aurora, Ontario, breeding hunter-jumper horses.
Jarvis' grandson Robert Aemilius Jarvis published the dramatic biography/auto-biography of his grandfather, "The Last Viking".
Jarvis famously sailed alone around Lake Ontario, from Hamilton to Niagara-on-the-Lake to Whitby and back, in a tiny dinghy aptly called Tar Pot when he was just twelve years old. (This journey was reported in newspapers at the time, beginning the legend of the sailor.) Later in life, he spent two years sailing the world in a square-rigger sailing vessel. He designed and built numerous innovative and successful racing sailboats, founded the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club, and was a longtime member of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, of which he was elected commodore seven times. He won the inaugural Canada's Cup yachting race in 1896 sailing the "Canada", a 57-foot cutter. Additionally, he won over 100 international freshwater sailing events while at Royal Canadian Yacht Club (& more than 300 overall), including a second Canada's Cup in 1901.
Aemilius skippered in every Canada's Cup from 1896-1907 with the sole exception of the 1905 edition; Cup Defenders Rochester Yacht Club made it a stipulation that Jarvis not skipper in order to accept R.C.Y.C.'s challenge. R.C.Y.C.'s Temeraire ultimately lost the 30-foot class match-series to Rochester's Iroquois.
As a skipper, Jarvis lived by the credo, "A place for everything, & everything in its place," a saying which he took so seriously (for in-race safety reasons) that he was known to throw crew members' items overboard if found laying haphazardly about.
He published an account of sailing his yacht, "Haswell", from Toronto to the Caribbean in the winter of 1920-21 entitled, "5,000 Miles in a 27-Tonner."
Jarvis was convicted on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the government of the Province of Ontario, after having saved that government millions of dollars in the retirement of war bonds. Though he was jailed for six months, for the remainder of his life he stoutly defended his innocence. He'd refused, against all advice, to testify in his own defense, and one theory as to why is that he was shielding/taking a fall for his son, also charged in the affair, after having tragically lost another son previously in World War I. Countless of his high-profile business peers signed a petition detailing the reasoned argument for Jarvis' innocence, which was proven when he at last did take the stand in the trial of another charged in the affair. He was ultimately technically cleared, though not officially by the Ontario Government. The former Premier of Ontario, Ernest C. Drury (United Farmers of Ontario party), labelled him "Canada's Dreyfus," a reference to Alfred Dreyfus who was wrongfully charged and jailed in his native France (around the turn of the century) for blatantly political reasons. It seems likely that this scandal is the reason why Aemilius perhaps isn't remembered today to the degree that he should be, given his achievements, plus his substantial contributions to Canada's World War I effort.
Jarvis was instrumental in forming the Royal Canadian Navy during World War I, recruiting anti-submarine (& other) ships, and over 2000 men. He acted as a spy for King George V while visiting Russia on business in 1915, delivering a message to George's cousin Tzar Nicholas via an intermediary encouraging Russia stay in the war to maintain two fronts on Germany. (The intermediary was shortly thereafter assassinated on a train platform immediately following passing -and ignoring- Jarvis in a train-car corridor, with several "ugly" men following close behind her.) Aemilius was awarded the Navy League of Canada's Special Service Decoration for his wartime contributions.