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MSS. Collection #11

William Sidney Porter Collection, 1839 to 1962. 2 boxes (164 folders) ca. 2500 item

Series Descriptions

Series 1. Correspondence. (18 Folders). Ca. 300 Items. 1839-1937

Folder 1. WSP to Robert (Bill) H: Davis. 20 items. 1904-1905, undated.

The correspondence in this folder are written to Bob Davis, fiction editor of Munsey’s Magazine. Most involve requests for various cash advances and also excuses why promised manuscripts have not been delivered. Many letters are written to display the wit and humor of WSP. He also mentions typing some stories although he rarely used the machine for that work. This may have been an excuse for undelivered materials. Many items in this group are ALS (autograph letter signed) WSP, and several are TLS (typed letter signed) WSP.

Folder 2. WSP to daughter Margaret, 1898-1901. 10 items.

This group of letters was written by WSP to his daughter Margaret between April 25, 1898, and July 24, 1901, while he was an inmate in the Ohio State Penitentiary; Margaret was never told of her father's whereabouts. The letters are mainly the chit chat of a father to his pre teen daughter. No covers are included with the items; two letters are undated and one is dated only November 12. Of these three items, two are probably late 1898.

Folder 3. WSP to Margaret, 1905-1907. 49 items.

These were written by WSP to daughter Margaret while she attended Belmont College. Belmont was a finishing school in Nashville, Tennessee. They speak of Margaret being homesick, of her clothes, family matters, her discontent at school, of sending money, holidays, etc. Some covers include WSP's wax seal. Specific inclusion dates are September 25, 1905 April 18, 1907.

Folder 4. WSP to Margaret, 1907-1910. 45 items.

These letters speak of family matters, holidays, etc. Most are written to Margaret from New York, but several are from Asheville, North Carolina. Margaret's addresses range from her grandmother's house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Dwight School in Englewood, New Jersey, to the Coleman home in Asheville, North Carolina. Items are in good to excellent condition and several include WSP's wax seal. The clipping is one WSP sent to his daughter, a publicity clipping for the book The Four Million.

Folder 5. WSP to Sara Coleman Porter. 7 items. 1905-1908.

These five items consisting of three Photostatic and two typescript copies of letters WSP wrote to Sara Coleman before they were married. The July 15 letter is in response to Sara's contact with WSP and the other item is urging Sara to visit New York on a planned trip to New England. One typescript of each letter and two Photostats of the July 15 item are included. Also included is an ALS WSP to Sara (1908) speaking of possibly returning to Asheville, North Carolina. Also included is the "Magnolia Letter," referring to Sara's visit to New York and on which is sketched a magnolia.

Folder 6. WSP, miscellaneous. 16 items. 1882-1907 and undated.

The items in this series include a calling card, three letters, and one cover. Three Photostats of a letter, WSP to his friend Dr. Beall in Greensboro, NC from Texas (1882) is included as well as the original. WSP also wrote to Mrs. J.K. Hall, of what he missed about living away from North Carolina. Also included is a 1907 letter written from New York by WSP to Ms. Lillie Benbow, and an undated letter to “Uncle John” written by WSP while in New York. Also in this group are two letters by ALS by WS on the stationary of the General Land Office in Texas. Both 1890 items deal with settling the estate (real estate holdings) of William Kerr. A Photostat of each letter is included. In this group is a printed page and photograph of the two letters of introduction which WSP presented in Austin (1884). 

Folder 7. WSP (copies) Greensboro Historical Collection.

This consists of Xeroxed copies of the correspondence, WSP to Margaret, as described above.


Folder 8. WSP (copies) Yale University Library. 1 item.

Copy of a five page letter and one page sketch ALS from “O. Henry” to Ainslees Magazine in regards to O’Leary’s real identity. The item is dated December 1.


Folder 9. Margaret Worth Porter (Cesare Sartin): Incoming. 10 items c.1892; 1909, 1924.

The earliest item is a note to Margaret from her cousin Waldo Porter asking her to come back to Greensboro, written presumably after Margaret and her mother visited in 1890 or 1891. Two of the 1909 items regard publishing stories written by Margaret (she was an authoress) and one is in French from a school mate: The final item regards a Santini painting done of WSP.

Folder 10. Margaret Worth Porter (Cesare Sartin): Outgoing: 16 items. ca.1899-1910.

These letters are from Margaret to her father. The early item is written to him while he was in prison and the others are written while Margaret was a student at Belmont and Dwight School and later from Asheville, North Carolina.

Folder 11. Sara Coleman Porter. 10 items. 1907-1947, undated.

Included is a letter to Lillie Benbow, 1907 with cover, in which Sara speaks of her marriage and early family life: Two additional letters to Lillie are written in 1910 by Sara and speak of the death and last moments of WSP (and are written on mourning stationary). These letters also discuss the relationship between Sara and WSP immediately prior to his death: The telegram is the one sent by Sara Coleman Porter to her mother, Mrs. William Coleman, announcing the death of WSP: The final letter is to Mr. Ely Oettinger and speaks of WSP's refusal to return to Texas. Included is an additional cover, without an address to Lillie Benbow in the handwriting of Sara Coleman Porter. The 1947 item is to Eli Oettinger (Earl Weatherly) in response to his request for a photograph of her. 

Folder 12. Shirley Worth Porter. 14 items. 1934-1937.

These letters are addressed to Mrs. Harry Thorton in Greensboro. They speak of Shirley's nickname "Shell" and how it was acquired, mutual acquaintances in Greensboro, a description of the original Porter drug store, a sketch made by Shirley Porter of the West Market Street Porter home, Dr. J. K. Hall, Shell's birthplace, early childhood, and other items relating to the Porter family in general.

Folder 13. Lyndon Swaim. 2 items: January 17, 1839 and August 4, 1845.

Lyndon Swaim followed William Swain as editor of the Greensboro Patriot (1839- 1854). He had been apprenticed under William. In 1842 he married Mrs. William Swaim, widow, and was therefore stepfather to Mary Jane Virginia Swaim Porter, the mother of WSP. The 1839 item is from Jesse Lindsay to Lyndon Swaim inviting him to return to Greensboro to edit the Carolina (Greensboro) Patriot. The other item is from a John Swaim in New Jersey and deals with early Swaim genealogy.

Folder 14. Al Jennings . 2 items. March 14, 1913, March 10, 1922.

Two page, TLS, to Mr. Archibald Henderson of North Carolina regarding a lecture and/or contribution for an O. Henry memorial (1913). Item has been silk laminated. The 1922 item is to Eli Oettinger regarding WSP, a watch, and being in Illinois.

Folder 15. Lina Gray. 3 items. April, 1897, and undated.

Included are an Easter card and a letter (1897) with cover to Lina Gray from her aunt, Lina Porter (ALS). The letter discusses general family matters.

Folder 16. E. M. Oettinger. 19 items. 1937-1939.

This group includes three items addressed to Eli Oettinger, ten carbon letters written from Eli Oettinger, and six memorandum sheets written by Eli Oettinger. The 1937-1939 items relate to Mr. Oettinger's attempts to add to his collection of O. Henry materials. Among the three letters addressed to E. M. Oettinger is a TLS Upton Sinclair. The memorandums deal with WSP's publications and his pen name. 

Folder 17. Ethel Arnett. 36 items. 1965-1969.

There are seventeen letters, seventeen covers, two pages (typed) of notes dealing with O. Henry, possibly by Mrs. Arnett or was possibly sent to her in a letter. These letters are to Mrs. Arnett from members of the Coleman and Porter families. They speak generally of WSP anecdotes and mention the publication of O. Henry from Polecat Creek by Arnett. The information in these letters was probably used in an article written by Arnett on first hand remembrances of WSP (see literary production series). Only a few items from this collection are available to view electronically and are listed below. 

Folder 18. Typed transcriptions. 125 pages. 1898-1910.

This is a set of typed transcriptions of correspondence between WSP and his daughter, Margaret from approximately 1898 to 1910. The originals included in the appropriate folders in this series.

Series 2. Printed Material. (13 Folders). 79 Items. 1870-1982.

This series includes two advertisements for patent medicine from Porter Drug Store, three printed report cards from Ms. Lina Porter's school and one set of fourteen items of sheet music with the original portfolio from LO, a musical comedy on which WSP collaborated in 1909. This musical opened in Aurora, Illinois, August 25, 1909 and ran for 14 weeks with performances in Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. It folded on the fifth of December. Also included is one copy in poor condition of "I'm Afraid to Come Home In the Dark" by William and Alstyne, 1907: WSP said something to this effect several hours before he died. The marriage invitation of WSP and Sara Coleman is included in this series. [NOTE: Item missing as of August 2004] Other items are a marriage certificate (with envelope) of Shirley Worth Porter and Emma Vanstory, one O. Henry calendar with the original box (1918), two programs to the Stockholder's Banquet at the opening of the O. Henry Hotel, July 2, 1919. Items associated with O. Henry celebrations include a copy of a bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives requesting a U. S. postal issue; two tickets to Full House (a motion picture based on several of O. Henry's stories); and Historical Museum brochure; six sets of three each and two additional O. Henry cachets issued by the Greensboro Historical Museum for sale in 1962 (WSP's 100th birthday); a program from a luncheon honoring Thomas Mitchell; three invitations to A Night With O. Henry (1962), by the Greensboro Historical Museum; two souvenirs of WSP's Full House; and one program from the unveiling of the O. Henry portrait, in the Greensboro Public Library in 1939. Thirteen post cards in this series depict various O. Henry artifacts including the Greensboro Historical Museum Porter Drug Store Exhibit in 1947.

Certificates and broadsides consist of four items including an advertising broad side from O. Henry's Full House, as well as two copies of the Guilford County Bicentennial Award 1970 presented to WSP. One copy of a birthday proclamation (1968) is signed by Mayor Carson Bain of Greensboro (2:13).

Twenty seven booklets are included in the series and are filed alphabetically by title. See the listing below:

TITLE DATE COPIES O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) (C. A. Smith) 1921 1 O. Henry in North Carolina (Cathleen Pike) 1957 1 The O. Henry Index (Doubleday Page & Co.) 1915 ca. 5 The O. Henry Index (Doubleday Page & Co.) 1915 ca. 1 O. Henry Lived Here (Early W. Bridges) 1962 4 O. Henry Papers (Doubleday Page & Co.) 1917 ca. 3 The Mystery of O. Henry (Henry James Forman) 1950 ca. 2 The White Plume (Stratton & Burke) 1928 1 Other miscellaneous items in this series are "an O. Henry notebook," probably compiled by E.M. Oettinger, and a copy of "O. Henry and Me" by Ethel Lloyd Patterson, printed in Everybody's Magazine (2:12).


Series 3. Financial and Legal Documents. (3 Folders) 29 items. 1843-1889.

This includes one receipt signed by Sidney Porter (1843) who was WSP's grandfather (3:3). Another bill is for tuition at Lina Porter's school 1885-1886 (3:1). Twenty-six items are from the Porter Drug Store from 1853-1889 (3:2). The majority are receipts for items purchased and several are signed by W. C. Porter. See the biographical/historical sketch for the various names of this drugstore at different times. Also included is an agreement (1882) between Porter and Dalton and C. P. Mendenhall for fixtures, etc. (with explanatory notes included) as well as the receipt from W. C. Porter to R. F. Dalton (1882) for 1/2 interest in the drugstore. Very interesting are two pages of accounts from Porter and Gorrell to W. C. Porter (debits), 1863, with amounts in "Confederate" and “Gold". Several of the receipts are Civil War era and many have the drugstore letter/bill head.

Folder 1. Receipt dated May 24, 1886.

Folder 2. Various receipts and contracts from the Porter Drug Store.

-Business Card. DF LA Cour's Newly Acquired Rubbing Sticking Plaster, [no date].

Folder 3. Receipts between Sidney Porter and Randolph Gorrell (1823 and 1826).


Series 4. Literary Productions. (5 Folders) Ca. 40 Items. 1895-1910.

Included are 14 typed transcriptions of "Postscripts" written by WSP for the Houston Post (1895-1896), from the Joseph Katz collection. Also included are published booklets of Roads of Destiny and The Exact Science of Matrimony, a Photostatic copy of Two Women, a photograph of the last three pages of A Cactus Thorn and an unidentified story manuscript page in the handwriting of WSP and four photocopies of the same. The group of photocopied sheets are copies of WSP's manuscripts from The Library of the University of Virginia. They include original manuscript copies of Adventures in Neurasthenia, Mammon and the Archer, The Crucible, The Shamrock and the Palm, and The Lonesome Road. Also in the University of Virginia collection is an ALS Sydney Porter from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (4:2). The Shirley W. Porter file contains manuscript memoirs of his and WSP's early life and anecdotes and memories of WSP (4:3). The Arnett file contains a typescript of Live Recollections of O'Henry for his 107th Birthday (1969) (4:4), 21 pages, as well as the first carbon copy of O. Henry from Polecat Creek by Arnett. Three pages of manuscript by WSP are the final three pages of A Cactus Thorn, written in Austin, Texas.

Series 5. Scrapbooks. (2 Folders) 2 items. 1919-1927.

The Oettinger Scrapbook is compiled of letters and newspaper clippings, circa 1919-1927. Many of the 1919 items relate to the opening of the O. Henry Hotel. Autographs include Henry Louis Smith, C. Alphonso Smith, and C. B. Benbow. The Benbow letter speaks of the "privy" sketch (Pritchett mineral spring) executed by WSP. The O. Henry - Richardson Memorial Scrapbook was compiled in September, 1947, at the opening of the Memorial in the Greensboro Historical Museum. It consists chiefly of newspaper clippings but also has several photographs and autographs of R. Gregg Cherry (TLS, 1947), Frank T. Graham (President of the University of North Carolina, TLS, 1947), L. L. Gobbel (President of Greensboro College, TLS, 1947), and Josephus Daniels (former Secretary of the Navy, Ambassador to Mexico & publisher of the Raleigh News & Observer, TLS, 1947).

Series 6. Miscellaneous. (1 Folder) 4 items. 1890, undated

This includes two calling cards of Dr. A. S. Porter, a ledger page from an unidentified school and a manuscript fragment by Shirley Porter on WSP's use of "O. Henry." 

-Calling card of Dr. A. S. Porter.
-Manuscript fragment by Shirley Porter on WSP's use of "O. Henry."
-A ledger page from an unidentified school.


Series 7. Books. 205 items. Unarranged. Various dates

This collection includes a large number of O. Henry First editions, authorized editions, and several books about O. Henry. See the rare book inventory sheets for specific titles, storage locations and further information.

Series 8. Radio Dramalogues. (16 Folders) 53 items. Various dates.

These are typed scripts of radio versions of O. Henry stories. See the inventory sheets for specific information.

Series 9. Newspapers and Clippings. (26 Folders) Ca. 425 items.

Note: Items are filed separately with the news clippings in file cabinet by accession number. These items contain information about WSP (there are no "Postscripts," etc.). Many are from Greensboro newspapers, 113 items being duplicates. They are generally classified as to subject and located in the vertical clipping file indexed by subject. Several accession numbers were reassigned, and the folder listing provides a partial listing of titles of clippings. ________________________________________________________________________

Series 10. Works of art. (1 Folders) Ten items. 1879-1888, undated.

These include an original pencil drawing (12 inches by 15 inches), “the pet fawn”, by Lina Porter (1888), the tombstone sketch, probably by WSP and the Pritchett Spring sketch by WSP. Copies of originals include a photocopy of the Pilot Mountain sketch (1879), three copies of the "sword and cat" sketch, and a copy of the "Tourgee" sketch, all by WSP. The original of the "sword and cat" sketch is included as is a sketch by Shirley Porter of the Porter house on West Market Street.

Series 11. Photographs. (20 Folders) Twenty items. 1882-1955.

These photographs are arranged somewhat differently than the general photographic collection within the Museum. This group is classified by subject (see container listings), as many items are duplicates of originals in this or other collections. Many negatives are included as well as a steel cut of the Barritt Portrait (1955) (11:18). The Van Der Weyde folder contains copies of photographs by Van Der Weyde or photos adapted from the Van Der Weyde works (the Van Der Weyde photographs were taken in New York in 1909 and are a rare group of studio portraits of WSP (11:1). Interesting originals include an early carte de visite of Lina Porter; a tintype of Ruth Worth Porter; photos of Dr. Algenon S. Porter and Mary Jane Virginia Swaim Porter; tintypes of Shirley Porter with Tom Tate and WSP, and one of WSP; and a cabinet card of Dr. James K. Hall (11:11). Other originals are of Lina Porter and the Porter School (11;6), as well as ones of Sara C. Porter and Margaret Porter (11:12-11:13). A photo of WSP (probably from Van der Weyde series) is signed by Sara C. Porter. There is also a photograph of the house in San Antonio, Texas, where the Rolling Stone was published. The series from "A Full House" are publicity photos for the world premier at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro of a movie based on five of WSP's stories (circa 1952) (11:16). A 23 1/2" x 27" framed copy from a Van Der Weyde portrait is located in the framed photograph storage.

Series 12. Magazines. (2 Folders) 190 items. 1900-1950 ca.

These items, 43 of which are duplicates, contain both stories by WSP and stories about him. See the inventory sheets for specific titles, etc. In addition several editions of short stories by Alphonse Daudet are included.

Series 13. Paintings. Two items.

The painting of WSP on permanent exhibit in the Museum Rotunda hung in the O. Henry hotel in Greensboro. The other painting in this collection was done by Barritt around 1955 and is in storage.

Series 14. Audio Recording. (1 Folder). 1 Item. 1962.

This is a 15-minute British Broadcasting Company tape used on the 100th anniversary of WSP.