This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for July 6, 2017: Sincerely, the Sky

July 6, 2017: on this day: O. Henry escapes to New Orleans

On this day in 1896, the writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) hopped a train for New Orleans rather than stand trial for embezzlement (books by this author).

He was raised in North Carolina, but relocated to Texas after he began to show symptoms of tuberculosis. He worked in Austin as a teller for the First National Bank, got married and had a child. In his spare time he edited a humor newspaper called The Rolling Stone. Then he moved to Houston, but was summoned back to Austin when shortages were discovered in the bank’s ledgers. They were probably due to bad bookkeeping, and he might have escaped conviction, but on the way from Houston to Austin he lost his nerve, stepped across the platform, and boarded a train going the opposite way. He landed in New Orleans, where he took a job on the docks. From there he went to Central America, making friends with criminals who gave him money after they pulled off big robberies. In 1897, word reached him that his wife was dying, and he went back to Austin, knowing he faced a certain prison sentence. His wife died, and he served five years in an Ohio penitentiary. There he began to write short stories, some of which he published under the name of one of the guards, Orrin Henry.