Who was O. Henry? His real name was William Sydney Porter and he was an American author of hundreds of short stories. He was born September 11th, 1862 in Greensboro, North Carolina, to physician Algernon Sidney Porter and Mary Jane Virginia Swaim. He had two brothers Shirley and David who both died in early childhood. His father was a gentle and good humored man and his mother an artist and poet.
At the age of fifteen O. Henry began working as a clerk in his uncle’s store, which was a combined pharmacy, soda fountain, tobacco shop, and newsstand. Porter became immersed in the social scene, entertaining the customers with stories and drawing cartoons of them for which he became well known. He saw the humor in the everyday, and made notes of all the colorful characters he encountered, which would become fodder for his future stories.
After spending time in the Honduras, during which Porter coined the term “banana republic“, he had to return to Texas to face charges of embezzlement. In 1898 he began a five-year sentence in Columbus, Ohio federal prison. In 1899, from prison, Porter began his short story career. A number of his stories written in prison appeared in print, always under a pseudonym, his favorite being “O. Henry”. After being released from prison in just three years, Porter moved to New York City. This was where he really came into his own.
Porter lived an extravagant lifestyle amid increasing pressure to keep his commitments to publishers for more and more stories. This stress plus ill-health and heavy drinking led his death of liver failure on June 5th, 1910. He now lies buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina. His last complete short story was “Let Me Feel Your Pulse“.
This Week’s Podcast:
On the show this Thursday we have mysteries to solve. Sherlock Holmes deals with a Locked room. O Henry searches around town and we have the explained tale from June. To learn more you just going to have to tune in and hear it for yourself.
You can listen to this podcast this Thursday at Ron’s Amazing Stories, download it from iTunes, stream it on TuneIn Radio or listen on your radio Friday night at 8pm Eastern time. Check your local listing or find the station closest to you at this link.