From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Gift of the Magi

The Gift of the Magi


by O. Henry

Analysis: Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Where did the name "O. Henry" actually come from? In an interview with the New York Times, William Sydney Porter (the author who wrote under the pen name of O. Henry) gave two different explanations. According to one, he chose "Henry" from a list of last names and "O." because he didn't want a long first name. Instead he just picked an initial, and chose "O" because it was the easiest letter to write. According to another explanation, the "O" stands for "Olivier," the French version of "Oliver" (though why he chose "Olivier" he doesn't say). (Source)

O. Henry was a convicted criminal and a one-time fugitive. He was accused of embezzlement by the bank for which he worked in 1896, and while en route to his trial, fled to New Orleans and then Honduras. (Source)

While fleeing the law in Honduras in 1896, O. Henry coined a term that entered popular lingo: "banana republic." It appeared in print in his 1904 collection of short stories, Cabbages and Kings. (Source)

O. Henry only returned from Honduras when he found out that his wife, Athol, was dying back in the states. When he returned, she did indeed die and O. Henry was arrested and put in the Ohio State Penitentiary (his date of incarceration was April 25, 1898). He remained there until he was released early for good behavior in 1901. (Source)

O. Henry began writing stories while in prison. His first short story was called "Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking." (Source)

O. Henry edited and co-owned a humor magazine called The Rolling Stone in the 1890s. (Source)

O. Henry actually wrote "Gift of the Magi" in a Manhattan tavern called Pete's. (Source)

"Gift of the Magi" was made into a Simpsons episode ("Grift of the Magi"). (Source)

"Gift of the Magi" was also the inspiration behind a Sesame Street holiday special. (Source)

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...