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Famous Like Me > Writer > H > O. Henry

Profile of O. Henry on Famous Like Me

Name: O. Henry  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 11th September 1862
Place of Birth: Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

O. Henry was the pen name of American writer William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910), whose clever use of twist endings in his stories popularized the term "O. Henry Ending."

Porter was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. His father, Algernon Sidney Porter, was a physician. When William was three, his mother died, and he was raised by his paternal grandmother and aunt. William was an avid reader, but he left school at the age of fifteen.

He relocated to Texas and took a number of different jobs over the next several years, including pharmacist, draftsman, journalist, and bank teller. After moving to Austin, Texas in 1882, he married. In 1884 he started a humorous weekly called "The Rolling Stone". When the weekly failed, he joined the Houston Post as a reporter and columnist. In 1897 he was convicted of embezzling money from the Ohio bank where he worked.

O. Henry was released from prison in Columbus, Ohio on July 24, 1901 after serving three years. On release he settled in New York City and began his writing career.

It is believed that Porter found his pen name while in jail, where one of the guards was named Orrin Henry. Other sources say that the name was derived from his calling "Oh Henry!" after the family cat, Henry. Guy Davenport wrote that the name was a condensation of "Ohio Penitentiary"

Most of his stories are set in his contemporary present, the early years of the 20th century. Many take place in New York. The title of his collection, The Four Million, refers to the population of New York at the time. Society arbiter Ward McAllister had famously compiled a list of "the four hundred" New Yorkers who constituted "society." To O. Henry, everyone in New York counted. O. Henry had an obvious affection for the city, which he called "Baghdad-on-the-Subway." But others are set in small towns and in other cities. His famous story A Municipal Report opens by quoting Frank Norris: "Fancy a novel about Chicago or Buffalo, let us say, or Nashville, Tennessee! There are just three big cities in the United States that are 'story cities'—New York, of course, New Orleans, and, best of the lot, San Francisco." Thumbing his nose at Norris, O. Henry sets the story in Nashville.

His stories deal for the most part with ordinary people: clerks, policemen, waitresses. He opens The Four Million with a reference to Ward McAllister's "assertion that there were only 'Four Hundred' people in New York City who were really worth noticing. But a wiser man has arisen—the census taker—and his larger estimate of human interest has been preferred in marking out the field of these little stories of the 'Four Million.'"

His most famous story, "The Gift of the Magi", concerns a young couple who are short of money but desperately want to buy each other Christmas gifts. Unbeknownst to Jim, Della sells her most valuable possession, her beautiful hair, in order to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim's watch; unbeknownst to Della, Jim sells his most valuable possession, his watch, to buy jewelled combs for Della's hair (Steve Martin later spoofed this story).

The Ransom of Red Chief concerns two men who kidnap a boy of ten. The boy turns out to be so bratty and obnoxious that the desperate men ultimately pay the boy's father two hundred and fifty dollars to take him back.

O. Henry once said, "There are stories in everything. I've got some of my best yarns from park benches, lampposts, and newspaper stands."

The O. Henry Awards are yearly prizes given to outstanding short stories.

The O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships are held in May of each year in Austin, Texas, hosted by the city's O. Henry Museum.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article O. Henry