In O. Henry's well-known short story "The Gift of the Magi," a woman sells her hair to buy her husband a watch chain, and her husband sells his watch to buy his wife hair combs. The story was first published in 1906.
"The Gift of the Magi" centers on a couple, Della and Jim, who are struggling financially. Della's most prized possession is her beautiful long hair. Jim's most prized possession is his pocket watch. At Christmas, the couple has very little money and cannot afford to buy each other Christmas gifts. Unbeknown to each other, Della sells her hair, and Jim sells his watch so that they can each afford to buy each other a gift. Della, however, buys Jim a watch chain, and Jim buys Della hair combs. The moral of the story concerns the sacrifices that people make for each other.
O. Henry was a pen name for William Henry Porter. He published his first story in 1904, following a history of fleeing from the law for embezzlement charges. "The Gift of the Magi" is typical of Henry's work, which often encompassed an observation of everyday people as they went about their lives. It was also common for his stories to end with a twist, such as that in "The Gift of the Magi."