William Sidney Porter was born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. He changed the spelling of his middle name to Sydney in 1898. His parents were Dr. Algernon Sidney Porter (1825-88), a physician, and Mary Jane Virginia Swaim Porter (1833-65). William's parents had married on April 20, 1858. When William was three, his mother died from tuberculosis, and he and his father moved into the home of his paternal grandmother. As a child, Porter was always reading, everything from classics to dime novels; his favorite works were Lane's translation of One Thousand and One Nights and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.
Porter graduated from his aunt Evelina Maria Porter's elementary school in 1876. He then enrolled at the Lindsey Street High School. His aunt continued to tutor him until he was fifteen. In 1879, he started working in his uncle's drugstore and in 1881, at the age of nineteen, he was licensed as a pharmacist. At the drugstore, he also showed off his natural artistic talents by sketching the townsfolk.Porter traveled with Dr. James K. Hall to Texas in March 1882, hoping that a change of air would help alleviate a persistent cough he had developed. He took up residence on the sheep ranch of Richard Hall, James' son, in La Salle County and helped out as a shepherd, ranch hand, cook, and baby-sitter. While on the ranch, he learned bits of Spanish and German from the mix of immigrant ranch hands. He also spent time reading classic literature. Porter's health did improve and he traveled with Richard to Austin in 1884, where he decided to remain and was welcomed into the home of the Harrells, who were friends of Richard's. Porter took a number of different jobs over the next several years, first as pharmacist then as a draftsman, bank teller, and journalist. He also began writing as a sideline.
Porter led an active social life in Austin, including membership in singing and drama groups. He was a good singer and musician. He played both the guitar and mandolin. He became a member of the "Hill City Quartet", a group of young men who sang at gatherings and serenaded young women of the town. Porter met and began courting Athol Estes, then seventeen years old and from a wealthy family. Her mother objected to the match because Athol was ill, suffering from tuberculosis. On July 1, 1887, Porter eloped with Athol to the home of Reverend R. K. Smoot, where they were married................
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About the Author
O. Henry was the pen name of William Sydney Porter (1862-1910) was a prolific American short story writer. Initially trained as a pharmacist, Porter began his writing career as a journalist and worked on his stories on the side. After being accused of embezzling money from a bank he worked for, he fled to Honduras. He returned to the US upon the death of his wife and was sentenced to five years in prison. It was during this time that he began to have his first stories published. He later moved to New York and began writing stories in earnest. Some of his most famous stories include "Gift of the Magi" and "The Caballero's Way" which introduced the character, the Cisco Kid.