"No-Tsu-Oh:" Backward Houston festival banned after WWI

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Thursday, October 31, 2019
This is the way they partied in Houston in 1899!
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This is the way they partied in Houston in 1899!

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It was called No-Tsu-Oh, "Houston" spelled backward, a festival designed to bring people to Houston and show off the city's deep water channel and promote the city as a hub of agriculture.

But the week-long festival, marked by drunkenness, soon drew the ire of some city leaders.

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"King Nottoc" (Cotton backwards)
Houston Public Library

After a critical newspaper commentary and the advent of World War I, the short-lived festival saw its demise.

No-Tsu-Oh was a Mardi-Gras style festival with a "backward' theme.

Men dressed as women. The symbolic leader of the carnival was "King Nottoc," as "cotton" spelled backward. There was also "King Retaw," which was "water" spelled backward, and the city's African-American community celebrated "De-Ro-Loc." It was the word "colored" spelled backward.

Some of Houston's most famous citizens served as "King Nottoc," including John Henry Kirby, Jesse H. Jones, and William T. Carter.

One the highlights of the festival was a football game between the University of Texas and the Mechanical College of Texas (Texas A & M).

The Aggies played the Longhorns in Houston, from 1914 through 1917.

The festival started in 1899 but was suspended after the outbreak of World War I and never returned.

Special thanks to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center of the Houston Public Library