April 28, 2012

O. Henry: the rolling stone that gathered moss

"It rolled for about a year," O. Henry later recalled, "and then showed unmistakable signs of getting mossy. Moss and I never were friends, and so I said good-bye to it." He was referring to his short-lived weekly newspaper called Rolling Stone, which began publication on April 28, 1894. It ceased almost exactly one year later on April 27, 1895.

At the time of its first issue, the North Carolina-born man (still using his real name William Sidney Porter) was in Austin, Texas working at a bank. That job would end in disaster when he would be charged with stealing money. His interest in more literary pursuits led to him leaving the job to focus on Rolling Stone. His motivations were not financial. One of his co-editors, James P. Crane, later said, "It was one of the means we employed to get the pleasure out of life and never appealed to us as a money-making adventure. We did it for the fun of the thing."

After quitting his job at the bank, however, Henry soon realized he was on the road to poverty. He looked for other work (hoping his friends in Chicago could find something for him there, for example), while hoping for the best with Rolling Stone. By January 1895, it was published both in Austin and San Antonio every Saturday. It received support from humorists like Edgar Wilson Nye. When Henry started veering into politics, even with a humorous intent, scores of readers gave up on it. Regardless of its lack of financial success, however, it was his work with Rolling Stone that convinced Henry to be a writer, not a banker.

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