He was the son of George William Whistler and Julia De Kay Whistler. He married Sophie Ames, the daughter of Joseph A. Ames (the artist who painted the portrait of Ross Winans in 1857, at which time AMW met him).
He studied in England and Germany and lived in Europe until 1871, when he went to the USA. He worked in a machine shop in Baltimore, and later for the Boston and Albany Railroad in Springfield, MA. He studied at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He became assistant engineer to William E. Worthen, both in Springfield and New York City. He designed and built hydraulic elevators for the Manhattan Gas Company, NY. He repaired the draw of Third Avenue Bridge, New York City. In 1885, he became an assistant engineer for the new aqueduct commission, Tarrytown, NY. He was a senior member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Biographical Record of the Officers and Graduates of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1824-1886, Henry B. Nason, ed., New York, 1887, p. 519.