O Henry

O Henry

Biography of O Henry

O. Henry, original name William Sydney Porter, was born on a plantation in Greensboro, North Carolina on September 11, 1862. In 1882, prompted by ill health, he moved to a ranch in West Texas. Two years later, he moved to Austin where he resided until 1898. During Porter's early years in the city, he held several jobs. He was a pharmacist at the Morley Drug Store, a bookkeeper for Joe Harrell, and later, a clerk at Maddox Brothers and Anderson, general land agents. As a bachelor, he enjoyed singing with the Hill City Quartet, known for serenading young women on the streets of Austin. The group also entertained at local weddings, church festivals, and picnics. Porter was a frequenter of the Bismark Saloon, his favorite "watering hole".

In 1887, Porter eloped with seventeen year old Athol Estes, an Austin native, who was impressed with both his singing and drawing abilities. They were married at Flower Hill, the home of Reverend R. K. Smoot. Porter's status as the head of a new household motivated him to take a job at the Texas Land Office, where he translated his skills as a cartoonist into cartography. Porter's maps, some of which are embellished with topical sketches and landscapes, are still on file at the General Land Office in Austin.

Will and Athol had two children, an infant son who died in 1888 and Margaret Worth Porter, born in 1889. Shortly after, Athol's health began to deteriorate from tuberculosis. Will pursued his interest in writing and illustrated a book, Indian Depredations in Texas, by J. W. Wilbarger. In 1891, Porter left his job at the Texas Land Office and moved on to become a bank teller at the First National Bank of Austin, earning $100 a month.

The Rolling Stone, his 1894 venture in writing and publishing a newspaper, gained a healthy circulation of about 1000 in a city of 11,000. Despite public interest, Porter was unable to make a profit and stopped production after a year. Further disappointments ensued when discrepancies in his accounting at the bank amounted to over $4000, demanding his resignation. Porter removed himself to Houston where he wrote a column for the Houston Post. To avoid an embezzlement trial, he fled to New Orleans and embarked on a steamer to Honduras. In his desperate situation, he impulsively planned to wait out the statute of limitations in Central America, but he abandoned this plan when he got word that his wife was about to die. He returned to Austin to care for her and to await his trial. Shortly after his wife's death in 1897, William Porter was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in the federal penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio and he never returned to Texas. After his release from prison, Porter moved briefly to Pittsburgh and then to New York City, where he established residency.

While in prison, Will Porter adopted the pen name O. Henry and began his career as a short story writer. His work was prolific but began to decline, along with his health, after 1907. O. Henry died in New York City in 1910, prior to his forty-eighth birthday. His legacy continues in the O. Henry Award, one of the most prestigious short story prizes in America.

Short stories by O Henry

  1. "Fox-in-the-Morning"
  2. "Girl"
  3. A Bird of Bagdad
  4. A Call Loan
  5. A Chaparral Christmas Gift
  6. A Chaparral Prince
  7. A Comedy in Rubber
  8. A Cosmopolite in a Cafe
  9. A Departmental Case
  10. A Dinner at--------*
  11. A Double-Dyed Deceiver
  12. A Fog in Santone
  13. A Harlem Tragedy
  14. A Lickpenny Lover
  15. A Little Local Colour
  16. A Little Talk About Mobs
  17. A Madison Square Arabian Night
  18. A Matter Of Mean Elevation
  19. A Midsummer Knight's Dream
  20. A Midsummer Masquerade
  21. A Municipal Report
  22. A Newspaper Story
  23. A Poor Rule
  24. A Retrieved Reformation
  25. A Ruler of Men
  26. A Sacrifice Hit
  27. A Service of Love
  28. A Snapshot at the President
  29. A Strange Story
  30. A Technical Error
  31. A Tempered Wind
  32. According to Their Lights
  33. After Twenty Years
  34. An Adjustment of Nature
  35. An Afternoon Miracle
  36. An Apology
  37. An Unfinished Christmas Story
  38. An Unfinished Story
  39. Aristocracy Versus Hash
  40. Babes in the Jungle
  41. Best-Seller
  42. Between Rounds
  43. Bexar Scrip No. 2692
  44. Blind Man's Holiday
  45. Brickdust Row
  46. Buried Treasure
  47. By Courier
  48. Calloway's Code
  49. Caught
  50. Cherchez La Femme
  51. Christmas By Injunction
  52. Compliments of the Season
  53. Confessions Of A Humorist
  54. Conscience in Art
  55. Cupid A La Carte
  56. Cupid's Exile Number Two
  57. Dougherty's Eye-Opener
  58. Extradited from Bohemia
  59. Fickle Fortune or How Gladys Hustled
  60. Friends in San Rosario
  61. From Each According to His Ability
  62. From the Cabby's Seat
  63. Georgia's Ruling
  64. He Also Serves
  65. Hearts and Crosses
  66. Hearts and Hands
  67. Holding Up a Train
  68. Hostages to Momus
  69. Hygeia at the Solito
  70. Innocents of Broadway
  71. Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet
  72. Jimmy Hayes and Muriel
  73. Law and Order
  74. Let Me Feel Your Pulse
  75. Little Speck in Garnered Fruit
  76. Lord Oakhurst's Curse
  77. Lost on Dress Parade
  78. Madame Bo-peep, Of The Ranches
  79. Makes the Whole World Kin
  80. Mammon and the Archer
  81. Man About Town
  82. Masters of Arts
  83. Memoirs of a Yellow Dog
  84. Modern Rural Sports
  85. Money Maze
  86. Nemesis and the Candy Man
  87. New York by Camp Fire Light
  88. Next to Reading Matter
  89. No Story
  90. One Dollar's Worth
  91. One Thousand Dollars
  92. Out Of Nazareth
  93. Past One at Rooney's
  94. Proof of the Pudding
  95. Psyche and the Pskyscraper
  96. Queries and Answers
  97. Roads of Destiny
  98. Roses, Ruses and Romance
  99. Rouge et Noir
  100. Round the Circle
  101. Rus In Urbe
  102. Schools And Schools
  103. Schools and Schools
  104. Seats Of The Haughty
  105. Seats of the Haughty
  106. Shearing the Wolf
  107. Ships
  108. Shoes
  109. Sisters of the Golden Circle
  110. Smith
  111. Sociology in Serge and Straw
  112. Sound and Fury
  113. Springtime a la Carte
  114. Squaring the Circle
  115. Strictly Business
  116. Suite Homes and Their Romance
  117. Telemachus, Friend
  118. The Admiral
  119. The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes
  120. The Assessor of Success
  121. The Atavism of John Tom Little Bear
  122. The Badge of Policeman O'Roon
  123. The Buyer From Cactus City
  124. The Caballero's Way
  125. The Cactus
  126. The Caliph and the Cad
  127. The Caliph, Cupid and the Clock
  128. The Call of the Tame
  129. The Chair of Philanthromathematics
  130. The Champion of the Weather
  131. The Church with an Overshot-Wheel
  132. The City of Dreadful Night
  133. The Clarion Call