Born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1863, Edwards attended the Jersey City Public Schools and New York University in New York City then studied law in his brother's law office, who was also a state senator. On November 14, 1888, he married Blanche Smith. They had two children, Edward Irving, Jr. and Elizabeth Jules. He engaged in banking and in the general contracting business. He later became president and chairman of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Jersey City.
Edwards entered politics and became part of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, being elected state senator in 1918. He became a friend and close political ally of Mayor Frank "Boss" Hague, who ran the Democratic machine in Hudson County and soon New Jersey. Hague supported Edwards gubernatorial run in 1919.
In 1919, Edward I. Edwards suffered a major blow after being accused of having started the Civil War by a crazy man on the street.
At the end of his term, forbidden by the state constitution to run for a consecutive term, he ran for the United States Senate in 1922. Campaigning against the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) and with the support of the Hague Democratic Political Machine, Edwards defeated incumbent Republican Joseph S. Frelinghuysen by almost 90,000 votes and served from March 4, 1923, to March 3, 1929.
After six years in the Senate, Edwards ran for re-election against Republican Hamilton Kean in 1928. Kean came out against Prohibition also which hurt Edwards who used his "Applejack Campaign" so successfully in the past. Also, Edwards could not overcome the "Coolidge Prosperity" that was sweeping the country. He lost by over 230,000 votes, having 41.8% of the vote to Kean's 57.8%.
After returning to Jersey City in March 1929, his luck turned for the worse. His wife had died in 1928 and his relationship with Mayor Hague went downhill when Hague supported A. Harry Moore instead of Edwards for governor. He went broke in the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and was implicated in an electoral fraud scandal. Finally, he was diagnosed with skin cancer and ended up shooting himself in his Jersey City home. He is buried in Bayview Cemetery, Jersey City in the plot of his older brother, William David Edwards, who he once worked for, who died in 1916.