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Collection Overview

Henry, O., 1862-1910
Collected Memorabilia of William Sidney Porter [O. Henry]
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
3 boxes and 0.8 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-3


The Collected Memorabilia of William Sidney Porter consists of unpublished articles, reminiscences, and correspondence of the American storywriter William Sidney Porter (1862-1910), better know by his pseudonym "O. Henry."

Collection Description & Creator Information


Consists of materials assembled in two stages-by Porter's friend and publisher, H. P. Steger, and by his biographer, C. Alphonso [Charles Alphonso] Smith. The Steger material consists of unpublished articles, reminiscences, and correspondence, most of which is about Porter. Although there are no original Porter letters or manuscripts, there are transcriptions of letters to family and friends. The Smith material consists primarily of letters sent to Porter. Among the correspondents are Andy Adams, Wallace Irwin, and Meredith Nicholson. In addition, Smith collected miscellaneous material related to Porter's writing, including photographs of the Ohio State Penitentiary where Porter served time and several unidentified manuscripts which were probably given to Porter, as well as a transcript of 40 pages from Porter's humorous weekly, Rolling Stone, published in Austin, Texas, and covering the period from 10 November 1895 to 24 May 1896.

Collection Creator Biography:

Henry, O., 1862-1910

William Sidney Porter was born 11 September 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Algernon Sidney and Mary Jane Virginia (Swaim) Porter. (In 1898 Porter would change the spelling of his middle name to Sydney, and later still he would adopt the literary pseudonym "O. Henry.") His first job after leaving school was as a pharmacist's assistant in his hometown (1877-1882). In 1882 he went to Texas, and after work at various types of jobs-including as a teller in an Austin bank (1891-1894)-he started a short-lived humorous weekly, The Rolling Stone (1894-1895), and wrote a daily column for the Houston paper Daily Post (1895-1896). On 5 July 1887, Porter married Athol Estes, on whom he based the character Della in "The Gift of the Magi." The couple had one child, Margaret.

In 1896 Porter was indicted for embezzlement of funds from the First National Bank of Austin, his former employer. The bank's relaxed policies definitely contributed to either his theft or failure to properly record a deposit. Instead of standing trial, Porter fled to Honduras. But when he learned that Athol was gravely ill (she died in July 1897), he returned to Austin and was convicted on 17 February 1898. Porter was then sentenced to five years in the Ohio State Penitentiary (1898-1901). During his imprisonment, he began to write short stories based on his experiences in Texas, Honduras, and elsewhere, as well as the lives of his fellow inmates. It was during this time that he transformed himself from a newspaper columnist to a mature author.

As a reward for good behavior, after serving three years and three months of his sentence, Porter was released early from the penitentiary on 24 July 1901. By April 1902, Porter was in New York City, talking with everyone he met, primarily colorful characters of the city's lower classes, and again using their stories in his fiction. He began writing a weekly story for the New York World (1903-1906) and published his first novel, Cabbages and Kings (1904). However, it would be his short story collections that what would bring Porter immense popularity; he published several volumes between 1907 and 1910 alone. Although his stories are set in many parts of the United States, as well as in Central and South America, Porter is best known for his observations on the diverse lives of everyday New Yorkers, "the four million" neglected by other writers. On 27 November 1907, Porter was married for the second time to Sara Lindsay Coleman, a friend from back in Greensboro. He died on 5 June 1910, in New York, from cirrhosis of the liver.

Collection History


Gift of M. Daniel Maggin in 1951.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Ran Tao in 2003. Finding aid written by Ran Tao in 2003.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Collected Memorabilia of William Sidney Porter [O. Henry]; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-3