Alexander Paul was born in August 1883 in Philadelphia. He attended the New York Nautical School (now SUNY Maritime College), receiving training on the schoolship "St. Mary's" and graduating in in 1901. After graduating, he spent several months working aboard ships of the Ward Line. Between 1902 and 1903, he and his mother (an actress) traveled and performed with her theatrical troupe, and then he resumed his maritime career as quartermaster of the S.S. "St. Louis." He subsequently worked on several other ships, mainly barges hauling cargo to different locations worldwide. Eventually he was promoted to Chief Mate. He also worked on trains for about two years. He became an Inspector of Marine Vessels and served in this capacity until, in 1952, he was injured when he fell while aboard ship and was discharged from active service.