He was an American author whose real name was William Sydney Porter. He was born September 11, 1862, in the quiet little village of Greensboro in North Carolina. He fell ill with a bad lung in 1882 and left North Carolina for a ranch in Texas where he worked as a cowboy. He recovered his health and later worked as a newspaper reporter.
In 1894 he became proprietor and editor of a humorous weekly entitled The Rolling Stone. He was, for a short while, a bank clerk but the bank failed and later he was falsely charged with the embezzlement of the small amount of money.
He was on his way to stand trial but boarded the wrong train and ran away to Central America. It was then that he took to the outlaw trail and for twelve months, was either at sea with smugglers or riding with bandits.
It was when he heard that his wife was seriously ill that Porter returned to Texas and surrendered to the law. He was allowed to stay with his wife until she died and he was unjustly sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. He wrote the first of his famous short stories while he was in the penitentiary. It was now that he adopted the penname of O Henry, sending his stories through a sister living in Pittsburgh, to various magazines.
He was released in 1902 after serving a minimum term of imprisonment and he went to New York, sure of a welcome from editors who had been buying his work. His first book of short stories, Cabbages and Kings, was published in 1904. This was largely based on his own adventures in Texas and Central America. Then he turned his hand to tales of New York City and in particular, to the poor people who dwelt there. His stories could be wry, thrilling and amusing in turn, with O Henry making the most of a vast canvas of fascinating characters.
Although he became the most popular short story writer of the time, he was always modestly paid and being a generous man, was constantly having to pour out material to make ends meet. It is on record that at certain times he turned out as many as fifty stories a year. He made famous the dramatic twist at the end of a story that was copied by many authors after him. O Henry died June 5, 1910.