Date of Birth
11 September 1862, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
Date of Death
5 June 1910, New York City, New York, USA
William Sidney Porter
5′ 7″ (1.70 m)
O. Henry was an American writer whose short stories are known for wit, wordplay and clever twist endings. He wrote nearly 600 stories about life in America.
He was born William Sidney Porter on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. His father, Algernon Sidney Porter, was a medical doctor. When William was three his mother died and he was raised by his grandmother and aunt. He left school at the age of 15 and then had a number of jobs, including bank clerk. In 1896 he was accused of embezzlement. He absconded from the law to New Orleans and later fled to Honduras. When he learned that his wife was dying, he returned to US and surrendered to police. Although there has been much debate over his actual guilt, he was convicted of embezzling funds from the bank that employed him, he was sentenced to 5 years in jail. In 1898 he was sent to the penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio.
While in prison he began writing short stories in order to support his young daughter Margaret. His first published story was “Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking” (1899). He used a pseudonym, Olivier Henry, only once and changed his pen name to O. Henry, not wanting his readers to know he was in jail. He published 12 stories while in prison. After serving 3 years of the five-year sentence, he was released for good behavior. He moved to New York City in 1902 and wrote a story a week for the New York World, and also for other publishers. His first collection of stories was “Cabbages and Kings” (1904). The next collection, “The Four Million” (1906), included his well-known stories “The Gift of the Magi”, “The Skylight Room” and “The Green Door”. One of his last stories, “The Ransom of Red Chief” (1910), is perhaps the best known of his works. Among its film adaptations are Ruthless People (1986) with Danny DeVito and Bette Midler, The Ransom of Red Chief (1998) (TV), The Ransom of Red Chief (1911) and Delovye lyudi (1962) (aka “Business People”) by director Leonid Gaidai, starring Georgiy Vitsin and Yuri Nikulin
In his lifetime O. Henry was able to see the silent film adaptations of his stories; The Sacrifice (1909), Trying to Get Arrested (1909) and His Duty (1909). His success brought the attendant pressure, and he suffered from alcohol addiction. His second marriage lasted 2 years, and his wife left him in 1909. He died of cirrhosis of the liver, on June 5, 1910, in New York, New York.
O. Henry is credited for creation of The Cisco Kid, whose character alludes to Robin Hood and Don Quixote. The Arizona Kid (1930) and The Cisco Kid (1931) are among the best known adaptations of his works.
|Sara Lindsey Coleman||(27 November 1907 – 1908) (separated)|
|Athol Estes||(5 July 1887 – 25 July 1897) (her death) 2 children|
Arrested and convicted of embezzling funds from the bank that employed him, he was sent to the penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio to serve a five year sentence. He began writing his by-now famous short stories in prison in order to help support his daughter, Margaret. He was released after three years and soon after changed his pen name to O. Henry.
Though many sources indicate O. Henry’s real name as “William Sydney Porter”, his middle name at birth was actually Sidney with an “i”. He changed the spelling of his middle name to “Sydney” when he began working for newspapers in the 1880s.
Porter is said to have derived the pen-name O. Henry from the name of a girlfriend’s cat.
His only formal education was received at the school of his Aunt Lina, where he developed a lifelong love of books.
Died at the age of forty seven. An alcoholic, he died virtually penniless.
Licensed as a pharmacist at 19 (1881). He worked as a pharmacist during his imprisonment for embezzlement (1898-1901).
In 1888, his wife gave birth to a premature son, who died a few hours later. Their daughter Margaret Worth Porter was born on September 30, 1889.
Second wife Sara Lindsey Coleman was his childhood sweetheart.
Worked as a draftsman in the Texas General Land Office (Austin), and is believed to have illustrated J. W. Wilbarger’s “Indian Depredations in Texas” (1889).
Write what you like; there is no other rule.
Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of life.
Life is sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
If man knew how women pass the time when they are alone, they’d never marry.
[his reported last words] Please turn on the light. I don’t want to go home in the dark.
A straw vote only shows which way the hot air blows.