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O.Henry

The American short story writer O. Henry (1862 - 1910) was born under the name William Sydney Porter in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1862. His short stories are well known throughout the world; noted for their witticism, clever wordplay, and unexpected "twist" endings.

Like many other writers, O. Henry's early career aspirations were unfixed and he wandered across different activities and professions before he finally found his calling as a short story writer. He started working in his uncle's drugstore in 1879 and became a licensed pharmacist by the age of 19. His first creative expressions came while working in the pharmacy where he would sketch the townspeople that frequented the store. The customers reacted warmly to his sketches and he was admired for his artistry and sketching skills.

O. Henry moved to Texas in March of 1882 hoping to get rid of a persistent cough that he had developed. While there, he took up residence on a sheep ranch, learned shepherding, cooking, babysitting, and bits of Spanish and German from the many migrant farmhands. He had an active social life in Austin and was a fine musician, skilled with the guitar and mandolin. Over the next several years, Porter -- as he was still known -- took a number of different jobs, from pharmacy to drafting, journalism and banking.

But banking in particular was not to be O. Henry's calling; he was quite careless with his bookkeeping and may have crossed some ethical and legal boundaries. In 1894, the bank accused him of embezzlement. He lost his job but was not indicted. He was always a lover of classic literature, and while pursuing these other ventures, O. Henry had begun writing as a hobby. When he lost his banking job he moved to Houston in 1895 and started writing for the The Post, earning $25 per month (an average salary at this time in American history was probably about $300 a year, less than a dollar a day). O. Henry collected ideas for his column by loitering in hotel lobbies and observing and talking to people there. He relied on this technique to gain creative inspiration throughout his writing career; which is a fun fact to keep in mind while reading a story like Transients in Arcadia.

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