Studied Royal Institute of Arts, Edinburgh. South. Kensington, London. Pennsylvania Academy Fine Arts.
He began his career in Scotland, working for sculptor John Rhind, the father of sculptor J. Massey Rhind while attending the Royal Academy in Edinburgh. He moved to London and worked on the Albert Memorial. In 1873, he was hired by architect John McArthur, Junior. to produce models for the architectural sculpture of Philadelphia City Hall.
The commission involved more than 250 pieces in marble and bronze, and took Calder 20 years to complete.
That same year, he was commissioned by the Association for Public Art (then the Fairmount Park Art Association) to create an equestrian statue of Major General George Gordon Meade for Fairmount Park. He is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
Married Margaret Stirling, November 26, 1868.