My article on short-story writer O. Henry is in today’s Wall Street Journal. He died exactly a century ago last Saturday.
William Sydney Porter–O. Henry’s real name–got his start at a drug store owned by his uncle in Greensboro, N.C. He worked there as a young man before moving to Texas in 1882. His fame as a writer came later, in the first decade of the 20th century.
The drug store was located at 121 S. Elm Street. In 1891, Clark Porter sold it to Lunsford Richardson II, who invented Vicks VapoRub on the premises. So one business can take credit for two success stories: It helped launch the career of an American literary giant as well as a pharmaceutical empire. As a biography of Lunsford’s son, H. Smith Richardson, says: “It seemed perhaps an unlikely place for the incubation of a famous writer, or of a business leader who was himself a genius at writing advertising copy.” The Greensboro paper described the property three years ago, when it was up for sale.
Here’s a photo of a Richardson descendant standing in front of the building at 121 S. Elm, which carries separate plaques commemorating both accomplishments.