Celebrating Master Storyteller O. Henry’s 150th Birthday Anniversary
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GREENSBORO, NC — The U.S. Postal Service today issued a commemorative Forever stamp honoring literary giant O. Henry during a ceremony at the Greensboro Historical Museum. The stamp is on sale today at Post Offices nationwide and can be purchased online at usps.com/shop or by phone at 800-Stamp24 (800-782-6724).
The stamp commemorates the 150th anniversary of the birth of O. Henry, the pen name of William S. Porter. Born in Greensboro, NC, Sept. 11, 1862, O. Henry became one of America’s most popular writers of short fiction. His stories, such as The Gift of the Magi, The Last Leaf, and The Ransom of Red Chief, are known for their humor, irony and skillful unfolding of plot, often with a surprise twist at the end.
“O. Henry was one of America’s wittiest and most popular short fiction writers,” said U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Megan Brennan.
“Beginning today, O. Henry will travel wherever the U.S. Mail goes, and we are proud to share his legacy with millions of Americans through this new stamp,” Brennan said.
Brennan officially dedicated the stamp and was joined by O. Henry impersonator Stephen Hale; Carol Ghiorsi Hart, director, Greensboro Historical Museum; Margaret Benjamin, president, Board of Trustees, Greensboro Historical Museum; Denise Turner Roth, city manager, Greensboro; Russell D. Gardner, Greensboro district manager, U.S. Postal Service; and Ronald L. White, postmaster, Greensboro.
The pungency of the language in O. Henry’s stories and the cinematic speed of their telling have been seen as characteristically American. Noted critic, Guy Davenport, compared O. Henry’s jauntily comic prose to ragtime music. Another critic, Burton Raffel, contrasted him with the realistic writers of his day, such as Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and Stephen Crane, who represented the world as truthfully as they could in their work. Pain, poverty, and death have a presence in O. Henry’s stories, but the dominant sense of lightness and gaiety is unmistakable.
By the time of his death on June 5, 1910, he was the most widely read storyteller in America, and was internationally admired. He wrote nearly 300 stories — most in the final eight years of his life.
Drawing on O. Henry’s close association with New York City, art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp using work by illustrator Cap Pannell. His portrait of O. Henry was based on a photograph of the author as a young man, probably from the late 1880s. As reference for the background, Pannell used an image — created by A. Loeffler in the early 20th century and now in the collection of the New York Public Library — of the elevated rail in New York. The stamp art was sketched in pencil and ink and then manipulated on the computer.
Customers may view the O. Henry Forever commemorative stamp, as well as many of this year’s other stamps, on Facebook at facebook.com/USPSStamps, through Twitter @USPSstamps or on the website Beyond the Perf at beyondtheperf.com. Beyond the Perf is the Postal Service’s online site for background on upcoming stamp subjects, first-day-of-issue events and other philatelic news.