Anchor Books The O. Henry Prize Stories
About the Series Widely regarded as the nation's most prestigious awards for short fiction
O. Henry Bio
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Author Spotlight
Prize Jury
About the Editor
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William Sidney Porter (O. Henry) was born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. His experiences in Texas, Honduras, and New York provided rich material for his more than three hundred short stories. In writing a story, he said, "the unusual is the ordinary rather than the unexpected."

In 1882, hoping to escape tuberculosis in a drier climate, young Will Porter left Greensboro and moved to a ranch in southwest Texas, where he learned to herd sheep, mend fences, and cook for the ranch hands. The exciting stories that Porter heard about ruthless outlaws and the Texas Rangers would inspire his western classics.

Some of Porter's happiest years were spent in Austin, where he began his adult life and writing career. He worked as a pharmacist, a draftsman for the General Land Office, and a bank teller at the First National Bank. He fell in love with Athol Estes, with whom he shared a passion for art, music, and literature. After they married, Porter started The Rolling Stone, a weekly devoted to cartoons and humorous stories.

Unfortunately, Porter's happiness did not last. Charged with embezzlement at the First National Bank, and believing that he would be found guilty for a crime he had not committed, he fled to Honduras. He returned to Austin upon learning that Athol was dying of tuberculosis, and after she died, he went to prison. At the federal penitentiary in Ohio he began to write in earnest, completing twelve stories that were all eventually published in national magazines. After trying a variety of pen names, William Sidney Porter adopted the pseudonym by which he became
famous--O. Henry.

In the spring of 1902, upon his release from prison, O. Henry moved to New York City, where he lived among the literati, and his work flourished. The Saturday Evening Post published "The Ransom of Red Chief," and by 1903 he was under contract with the New York World to write a story a week, earning him his steadiest income. The New York World published "The Gift of the Magi," which has become a Christmas classic.

O. Henry had many friends who championed his work. Gilman Hall, an editor at Ainslee's, convinced the magazine to advance O. Henry one hundred dollars so he could afford to move to New York. Witter Bynner, an editor for McClure's, encouraged O. Henry to write his only novel, Cabbages and Kings, which was based on his stories about Central America. Harry Peyton Steger, literary advisor to Doubleday, Page & Company, first published O. Henry's stories in book form, and after O. Henry's death on June 5, 1910, became his literary executor.

O. Henry biography and photographs provided courtesy of the O. Henry Museum in Austin, Texas.