Canfield eventually took over the Dickerson Suckasunny Mining Company, a family business started when his great-grandfather Jonathan Dickerson (1747-1805) purchased shares in the rich Morris County iron mine then known as the Succasunna Mine, and later known as the Dickerson Mine.By 1810, Canfield's great-uncle Mahlon Dickerson completely owed the mine and from 1828, Dickerson's nephew and Frederick Alexander's father, Frederick Canfield, acted as its manager.He graduated from Rutgers College in 1870 and three years later earned the degree of Engineer of Mines from the Columbia College School of Mines.Throughout his lifetime Canfield worked as an engineer for numerous iron and mining companies in the United States, particularly those located in New Jersey.He was an avid mineral collector who at the time of his death had accumulated an extensive and valuable collection.
He attended private schools in Mendham and Chester, New Jersey and later the Newton Collegiate Institute.
He was surrogate of Passaic County in 1837, a New Jersey council member from Passaic County in 18, a New Jersey State senator from 1849-1851, president of the State Senate in 1851, and Passaic County clerk from 1852-1861. Frederick Canfield (1810-1867), the youngest son of Mary Dickerson and David Sealy Canfield, from his childhood resided at the estate of his uncle, Mahlon Dickerson, in Ferromonte, New Jersey.
From 1828 until his death in 1867, Frederick Canfield managed the Dickerson Mine.
In 1914, he received an honorary doctorate of science from his alma mater, Rutgers College.
Canfield never married and died in Morristown, New Jersey on July 3, 1926.