Our Namesake: William Sydney Porter "O.Henry"
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William Sydney Porter, under the pen name O. Henry, authored “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Last Leaf,” “Of Cabbages and Kings,” and “The Ransom of Red Chief,” to name a few. (Read the Gift of the Magi short story.) He was born in Greensboro on September 11, 1862 and educated at his Aunt Lina’s school in Greensboro before moving to Texas (his Aunt’s schoolroom has been replicated in the Greensboro Historical Museum). His adventures in Texas soon landed him in jail where he began his writing career. Eventually Mr. Porter went to New York City where he spent his final ten years writing short stories based on his experiences. He died in New York City in 1910 and is buried in Asheville.
When the first O.Henry Hotel was built in 1919 in Greensboro, North Carolina, the New York Times reported that, “No memorial could be more appropriate for
‘O. Henry’ than a hotel and that no other would have pleased his fancy.
‘A lot of famous writers,’ said one guest,
‘have houses they once occupied preserved in their honor, but O. Henry lived most of his life in hotels. A hotel is representative of him as no house could be, and representative, too, of his stories, which were chiefly concerned with the transient guests of life, the waifs and strays of present-day existence who found in hotels and restaurants the setting for so many of their poignant adventures.’”
O. Henry was one of the most beloved authors of his time and his work remains popular today. His stories are filled with remarkable characters, strange twists of plot and descriptive accounts of distinctly American times and places.
See a portrait of O. Henry in our Social Lobby (photo on right).