O. Henry Featured on U.S. Stamp

O. Henry (the pen name of William S. Porter) wrote over 300 stories. The Gift of the Magi and The Ransom of Red Chief are two of his most famous. On September 11, 2012 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth, the U.S. Postal Service issued a First Class Forever Stamp. The dedication was at the Greensboro Historical Museum in North Carolina, the city of his birth. The stamp’s artist is Cap Pannell and the art director and designer is Ethel Kessler.

In addition to skill in writing, Porter was a good singer and played the guitar and mandolin. At one time he was a member of the Hill City Quartet, a musical group that played in and around Austin Texas.

He was working in a bank when he was charged with embezzlement. At first he attempted to avoid jail by running off to Honduras. While he was there he wrote Cabbages and Kings in which he used the term “banana republic” thus launching the phrase commonly used today. He came back home when his wife was dying and was sent to jail.

Fortunately when he was 19 years old he had become a licensed pharmacist, a profession that stood him in good stead while incarcerated. He got to work in the prison infirmary and live in a room near it rather than having to spend time in a cell. In his free time he wrote. He published 14 stories during the three years he spent in jail, using different pseudonyms. It was during this period that the pen name O. Henry came into being.

He was 47 when he died on June 5, 1910. He was a heavy drinker and had cirrhosis of the liver as well as diabetes.




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