William Otter came to live in the United States in a different way from most. He didn't come here with his family. He wasn't trying to escape religious persecution. William Otter was born in England. As a young boy, he was coerced into joining the British navy. He soon found that this was not the adventurous life he had imagined. He jumped ship while docked in New York City in 1831. He ran as far away from the seafaring life he had known as he could. His family joined him in America shortly after.
As William approached his middle teens, his father asked the same question many fathers of today might ask. "When are you going to get a job?" William's father felt that it would take a good lesson in responsibility for William to grow up and be a good citizen. As William put the search for a job off, his father's question became more of a demand.
William and his father finally searched through the streets of New York. They were looking for a place that William could start an apprenticeship. It was the tradition in those days to work for an expert in a certain trade for several years. During this apprenticeship, the young man would learn all he could about the trade. When the years of apprenticeship were complete, the young man would have the skills he needed to start his own business.