O. Henry (William Sidney Porter), 1862 - 1910

portrait of O. Henry
Photo by W. M. Vanderweyde, New York

Born: 11 September 1862, Greensboro, North Carolina
Died: 5 June 1910, New York City

Porter's father was Dr Algernon Sidney Porter, a physician, his mother died of tuberculosis three years later and father and son moved in with Dr Porter's mother-in-law. Porter was a wide-ranging avid reader, his favorite book was One Thousand and One Nights. He went to his aunt Evelina's elementary school and Lindsey Street High School. He worked in his uncles drug store, becoming a licensed pharmacist at 19 in 1881, often sketching the local residents. He moved to Texas in 1882 in hopes of clearing up a chronic cough, living and working on a sheep ranch. He moved to Austin and worked various jobs including pharmacist, bank teller, and journalist, starting to write stories on the side. He played guitar and mandolin and joined "The Hill City Quartet", a men's group that sang at local gatherings. He courted Athol Estes, her mother objected, they eloped. He was hired to draft maps for the Texas General Land Office. In 1891 he started work as a teller and bookkeeper at the First National Bank of Austin, the bank had no formal accounting system and Porter's poor records led to charges of embezzlement. After publishing a humorous weekly at Austin, which didn't pay enough to live on, he was hired by the Houston Post in 1895, but federal auditors visited his old bank and indicted Porter. Rather than stand trial, Porter fled to New Orleans and then Honduras, he returned when his wife contracted tuberculosis, was arrested, and sent to prison for three years. As a pharmacist, he was given a room in the hospital and never was actually in a cell block, he wrote and sold several stories under pseudonyms, O. Henry being the one that he stayed with. He moved to New York City in 1902, writing 381 stories there. Despite his success he took to drinking heavily, his second wife left him after two years, and he died of cirrhosis of the liver, complications of diabetes, and an enlarged heart. His large heart was always obvious to his readers.

Biography from Wikipedia and OnlineLiterature.com

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