Born in New York City, he studied in upstate New York with Tompkins Harrison Matteson. In 1856, he went to Paris and to Italy, returning to New York in 1861. In 1866, Vedder returned to Italy to reside in Rome permanently, paying an occasional visit to America.
Vedder's work in Italy remained allegorical and symbolistic. Participating in the revival of mural painting at the end of the century, he painted murals at Bowdoin College in 1894 and in the Library of Congress in 1896-7. His easel paintings are represented in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Art Institute of Chicago, Baltimore Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Los Angeles County Museum and the Worcester Art Museum.