Born in New York, his father was a prosperous businessman. Carryl became a successful businessman and stockbroker, and for 34 years from 1874 he held a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1869 he married Mary Wetmore, and had two children, the eldest of whom was poet and humorist Guy Wetmore Carryl. In 1882 he published his first work: Stock Exchange Primer.
In 1884 he published the children’s fantasy serial Davy and the Goblin; or, What Followed Reading "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". His work includes the children’s nonsense poem “The Walloping Window Blind”, published in 1885, in a verse style similar to Lewis Carroll’s: A capital ship for an ocean trip/Was the Walloping Window-Blind;/No wind that blew dismayed her crew/Or troubled the captain’s mind.
His poems "The Sleepy Giant" and "The Walloping Window Blind" are featured on Natalie Merchant's 2010 concept album Leave Your Sleep.