William D. Hope, a second generation pharmacist and native of England, traveled to Newport, Nova Scotia, in the early 1860s, where he briefly studied under Dr. William Denison. In September 1862, he went back to England destitute, and unsuccessfully sought work in Liverpool, Brighton, and Greater London. Hope returned to North America in 1863, and lived in New York and Massachusetts before joining the Union Army. He served as a medicine dispenser at Hart Island, New York, and as a clerk at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. After the war, he lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois.
Hope's uncle, Peter Atkin, originally a native of Blackburn, England, lived in Liverpool in the 1860s. He and his wife, Alice Hope, also a native of Blackburn, had several children, including George Atkin of Rock Ferry, England. Alice's siblings included John, David, Jane, and Sarah.