William Sydney Porter, known worldwide as the short story master O. Henry, spent much of his young adult life in Texas, moving at age 20 from his hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina to a ranch in La Salle County. After a two-year stint as a cowpoke, Porter moved to Austin and became house guest of the Joseph Harrell family and their cat, Henry, who may have inspired Porter’s later pseudonym. Porter is believed to have made a habit of addressing the cat with an affectionate “Oh, Henry”. Today, the O. Henry Museum in Austin, located in an historic rental home built in 1886 and occupied by Porter and his wife and daughter between 1893 and 1895, offers a look into the life of Porter during his years in Austin. Many of his Texas experiences would later appear in his short stories, written over a brief period of steady creative output that would eventually make Porter a literary household name as O. Henry, the pen name he adopted after spending five years in prison for embezzlement. In light of his overall accomplishments, the conviction only enhanced a rich and examined life, cut short by illness at age 48. The O. Henry Museum provides an opportunity to explore some of Porter’s early experiences that may have been instrumental in his post-prison transformation into one of the country’s leading fiction writers of the 20th century.
O. Henry Museum