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O. Henry Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

In this lesson, we'll learn about the life of O. Henry, a great American writer who created some very memorable, humorous, and surprising short stories.

Who Is O. Henry?

What do you think makes a good story? O. Henry was an American writer who is best known for his short stories (he also wrote articles and books). As you might have guessed, a short story is not as long as a book and is a work of fiction (it's make-believe). But just because it's short doesn't mean that it's any less exciting or interesting.

O. Henry's stories often included a twist, something funny, or a surprise at the end. As we'll see in this lesson, O. Henry's own life was also full of twists and drama. He wrote over 300 stories and made the setting (place and time that a story happens) of many of them in cities and regions where he lived himself.

William Sydney Porter
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Porter's Early Life

O. Henry's real name was William Sydney Porter. He was born in 1862 in North Carolina. He went to school, where his aunt was the teacher, and worked in a drugstore owned by his uncle. Porter moved to Texas to work on a ranch and then at a bank.

Texas ranch
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In 1887, he got married and started writing. He began a weekly publication and was a reporter and writer for a newspaper. This was a very happy time for Porter.

Becoming O. Henry

Then, in 1896, he was accused of taking money from a bank that wasn't his. Instead of staying in Texas, he ran away to Honduras. When his wife became sick, Porter came back to be with her before she died. After that, Porter was found guilty.

He spent more than three years in jail in Ohio. This was when Porter began to really write. He made money for his daughter by selling his stories to magazines. While in jail, he chose a pseudonym or made-up name to use for his writings. After that, on anything he wrote, he used O. Henry as his name.

Moving to New York

O. Henry traveled to New York in 1902 and got to know many other writers. He began writing weekly stories for the New York World newspaper. This was when he wrote ''The Gift of the Magi,'' one of his most famous stories about a couple buying Christmas presents for each other. In 1904, he wrote Cabbages and Kings, a book that took place in Honduras.

New York City
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