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University Archives and History

William Sidney Porter Papers, 1839-1982

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About the Collection

PorterThis collection is held by the Greensboro History Museum.

 

The William Sydney Porter Papers contain many first editions, as well as correspondence, printed materials, financial/legal documents, and literary productions. The collection also includes scrapbooks, radio dramalogues, newspaper clippings, sketches and drawings, photographs, magazines, paintings and an audio recording. The bulk of material dates from William Sydney Porter’s lifetime, 1862-1910.

 

Only selected items from the collection have been digitized, specifically the correspondence series and portions of the financial/legal and artwork series. Additional items may be digitized in the future. The full collection may be viewed at the museum.

 

About William Sydney Porter (O. Henry)

William Sidney Porter (O. Henry; 1862-1910) was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, on September 11, 1862. After attending both his aunt Lina Porter's school and public high school in Greensboro, he began working at his uncle's drug store, becoming a registered pharamcist in 1881. During his years in Texas, beginning in 1882, Porter worked in bookkeeping and banking, and also began writing and sketching. He married Athol Estes in 1887. Porter also operated a newspaper, Rolling Stone, in 1894 and 1895.

 

In 1896, Porter was indicted for embezzlement. En route to his trial, he fled the country for Honduras, returning in 1897 to be with his ailing wife, who died that same year. Also in 1897, Porter's first short story, "The Miracle of Lava Canyon," was published. Porter was convicted of embezzlement in 1898 and spent thirty-nine months in prison, where he wrote fourteen stories; three of these were published while he was still in prison. Upon his release from prison in 1901 Porter moved to Pittsburgh, where his daugter was living with relatives. He published nine stories while living there.

 

Porter relocated to New York City in 1902, and published seventeen stories that year, followed by over 150 more during the next six years. Porter married childhood acquaintance Sara Coleman in 1907. He died in 1910 of sclerosis of the liver, diabetes and an enlarged heart.

 

A more detailed biography is available in the collection finding aid.

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