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O Henry was a prolific American short-story writer a master of surprise endings who wrote about the life of ordinary people in New York City A twist of plot which turns on an ironic or coincidental circumstance is typical of O Henrys stories Born September 11 1862 as William Sidney Porter he later changed to his pen name of O Henry He spent his childhood in North Carolina He was formally educated until he dropped out of school at fifteen and became a pharmacist at his uncles pharmacy At the age of twenty Porter went to Texas primarily for health reasons and worked on a sheep ranch He lived with the family of Richard M Hall whose family had close ties with the Porters It was here that O Henry gained knowledge for ranch life that he later described in many of his most successful short stories In 1884 Porter moved to Austin For the next three years he roomed in the home of the Joseph Harrell family and held several jobs It was during this time that Porter first used his pen name O Henry said to be derived from his frequent calling of Oh Henry the family cat By 1887 Porter began working as a draftsman in the General Land Office then run by his old family friend Richard Hall In 1891 at the end of Halls term at the Land Office Porter resigned and became a teller with the First National Bank in Austin He left the bank after a few years and founded the Rolling Stone an unsuccessful humor weekly Starting in 1895 he wrote a column for the Houston Daily Post Meanwhile Porter was accused of embezzling funds dating back to his employment at the First National Bank Leaving his wife and young daughter in Austin Porter fled to New Orleans then to Honduras but soon returned due to his wifes deteriorating health She
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