Dumbarton, Dunbartonshire born inside left Jimmy Hartley could play all across the front line and regularly appeared throughout his career in all forward positions although rarely at outside left. He started his career with hometown Scottish League club Dumbarton in 1894 and scored 5 goals in 15 appearances for The Sons before being signed by First Division defending champions Sunderland in October 1895, making his Football League debut at Sheffield Wednesday the same month.
Never a regular for The Wearsiders, after only a year having scored once in 11 appearances, he was transferred to Burnley in December 1896, but played only once for The Clarets the same month before being loaned to Second Division club Lincoln City in March 1897, where he scored on his debut in a home defeat to Small Heath (now Birmingham City) and returned 5 goals in 9 appearances before the season end.
He then joined Southern League club Tottenham Hotspur in the 1897 close season, and spent two seasons at Tottenham Marshes, immediately before they moved to White Hart Lane, but Hartley was a fringe player in his second season at Spurs, scoring 9 goals in 20 appearances before a move back to Sincil Bank to rejoin Lincoln City in the summer of 1899. It was at Lincoln that he played the most consistent football of his career, missing only one match in his first two campaigns and scoring double figures goals each season of his four seasons with The Imps. During that time he was the club’s top goalscorer in every season except 1901-02, and scored a hat-trick for Lincoln in a 4-0 win over Stockport County in December 1900, a season in which he was an ever present, as he was in 1902-03.
Hartley signed for Glasgow Rangers in the summer of 1903 after 57 goals for Lincoln City in 151 appearances across his two spells at Sincil Bank, and made his debut for Rangers against Hearts that September, but after playing his fourth match that December in a 1-1 draw at Port Glasgow Athletic, he was signed by Port Glasgow and scored 12 goals in 24 appearances for them before a return to England with Southern League club Brentford in 1905. He scored 6 goals in 26 appearances for The Bees during their 1905-06 campaign but was again on the move joining fellow Southern Leaguers New Brompton (now Gillingham) in the 1906 close season, and he played two seasons at Priestfield. scoring 15 goals in 36 appearances before a return to Port Glasgow Athletic in 1908. He subsequently retired from professional football in 1910.