The Life and Works of O.Henry

Essay by evey806College, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

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O. Henry was a prolific American short-story writer, a master of surprise endings, who wrote about the life of ordinary people in New York City. A twist of plot, which turns on an ironic or coincidental circumstance, is typical of O. Henry's stories.

Born September 11, 1862 as William Sidney Porter, he later changed to his pen name of O. Henry. ^

He spent his childhood in North Carolina. He was formally educated until he dropped out of school at fifteen and became a pharmacist at his uncle's pharmacy.*

At the age of twenty, Porter went to Texas primarily for health reasons, and worked on a sheep ranch. *

He lived with the family of Richard M. Hall, whose family had close ties with the Porters. It was here that O. Henry gained knowledge for ranch life that he later described in many of his most successful short stories.


In 1884, Porter moved to Austin. **

For the next three years, he roomed in the home of the Joseph Harrell family and held several jobs. It was during this time that Porter first used his pen name, O. Henry, said to be derived from his frequent calling of "Oh, 'Henry'" the family cat.*

By 1887, Porter began working as a draftsman in the General Land Office, then run by his old family friend, Richard Hall. ***

In 1891 at the end of Hall's term at the Land Office, Porter resigned and became a teller with the First National Bank in Austin. ***

He left the bank after a few years and founded the Rolling Stone, an unsuccessful humor weekly. Starting in 1895 he wrote a column for the Houston Daily Post.

Meanwhile, Porter was accused of embezzling funds dating back to his employment at the First National...