O. Henry
Born in

Greensboro, North Carolina, The United States

September 11, 1862

Died

June 5, 1910

Gender

male

Books

About O. Henry

William Sydney Porter lends the pen name "O. Henry" to surprise endings signed officially as Sydney Porter. His biography shows where he found inspiration for his characters. Their voices and his language were products of his era.

He was born 1862 Greensboro, North Carolina. When he was three years old, his mother died from tuberculosis. He left school at fifteen, worked five years in uncle's drugstore, then for two years at a Texas sheep ranch.

In 1884 he went to Austin where he worked in a real estate office, a church choir, and spent four years as a draftsman in the General Land Office. His wife and firstborn died, but daughter Margaret survived him.

After he failed to establish a small humorous weekly, he worked in poorly-run bank. When its accounts did not balance, he was blamed for it, and fired.

In Houston, he worked for a few years until — ordered to stand trial for embezzlement — he fled to New Orleans and thence, to Honduras.

Two years later, he returned on account of his wife's illness. Apprehended, Porter served a few months more than three years in a Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. During his incarceration, he composed ten short stories, including "A Blackjack Bargainer", "The Enchanted Kiss", and "The Duplicity of Hargraves".

In 1899, McClure's published "Whistling Dick's Christmas Story" and "Georgia's Ruling."

While in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he sent manuscripts to New York editors. In the spring of 1902, Ainslee's Magazine offered him a regular income if he moved to New York.

In less than eight years, he became a bestselling author of collections of short stories. "Cabbages and Kings" came first, in 1904; followed by "The Four Million"; "The Trimmed Lamp" and "Heart of the West" in 1907; "The Voice of the City" in 1908; Roads of Destiny" and "Options" in 1909, "Strictly Business" and "Whirligigs" in 1910. Posthumously published collections include "The Gentle Grafter" about the swindler, Jeff Peters; "Rolling Stones" and "Waifs and Strays"; and in 1936, unsigned stories.

Others were rewarded financially more. "A Retrieved Reformation," about the safe-cracker Jimmy Valentine, got $250; six years later, $500 for dramatic rights, which gave over $100,000 royalties for playwright Paul Armstrong. Many stories have been made into films.