Once Upon a No-Tsu-Oh Time

Miss Ima Hogg and friends ready themselves for the big No-Tsu-Oh carnival parade during one of the years of the early 20th century annual Houston  dip into community fun.

Miss Ima Hogg and friends ready themselves for the big No-Tsu-Oh carnival parade during one of the years of the early 20th century annual Houston dip into community fun.

Back in 1899, as Houston churned toward its plans to celebrate the end of one century and the beginning of another, a local social group known as the Houston Houndz came up with an idea for a week-long carnival, one modeled after Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They called it No-Tsu-Oh (Houston spelled backwards) – and it came complete with plans to crown a reining carnival ruler to be known as King Nottoc (cotton spelled backwards).

Theses silly carnival name-christening plans apparently came across to Houstonians of that era as stupid as they still sound today. People didn’t like it, and they stayed away in droves, at first, from offering their support.

As 1900 drew near, however, the appeal of a week-long party won out over any objections to its identity wrappings, proving once again the truth of that ancient adage: “It doesn’t matter what it looks, feels, sounds, or smells like – as long as it tastes good.” And No-Tsu-Oh tasted so good to Houstonians that they kept on celebrating it annually through about 1918, when the United States entered World War One. After the war, it never resumed. Houston had changed and moved on into the robust working, growing, entrepreneurial city that it needed to be beyond any needs to stop and smell the roses as the center point of community life, as they ubiquitously do in New Orleans.

Another old expression evolved as the standard for comparing the cities of New Orleans and Houston by the middle of the 20th century: About New Orleans, the wisdom grew that most people there work to live. In Houston, however, where so many people are corporate transfers; they live to work.

As an independent  Houstonian who absorbed a large part of his graduate school time and practical life experience as a student of Tulane and an everyday New Orleans resident, I would express the difference between life in the two cities in this way: In New Orleans, people don’t just stop to smell the roses. They stop to become full-time gardeners. In Houston, however, most people who do stop to smell the roses are more often awakened to the potential for selling roses themselves at a cheaper market price.

It’s Saturday. Have fun.

And while you are getting ready for the day, here’s an early turn of the 20th century story from the Brownsville Daily Herald of October 30, 1905 about one of the early No-Tsu-Oh festival plans:






A week of frolic. Here is the place to have it. The carnival that made Houston famous is No-Tsu-Oh. and this year the biggest festival ever known in Texas has been planned.

The No-Tsu-Oh carnival has no object but to spread mirth. It does not mix this with any exhibition that savors of dullness. There is fun of every kind, fun for everybody, wholesome, unshackled, untainted, sparkling fun. The carnival of 1905 begins November 13 and continues the rough the night of November 18.

Horse races every day of the No-Tsu-Oh carnival is a new and big feature this year. Some of the best racers of the country will be on the Houston track. There will be running, trotting and pacing races.A feast is in store for the lovers of this, the most inspiring of all the sports. Every facility has been provided to accommodate the crowd at the race track, and some novelties wiil be put in to make the Houston races lead all others in point of interest.

The “Hike-Along” this year will resemble the Pikeaway of last year, though a superior lot of shows have been secured. This will be the fun center; about it will rotate about all the frolicking that can be put into one week.

The triumphal entry of King Nottoc to the city of No-Tsu-Oh will occur Monday morning of carnival week amid the ringing of bells, the sound of whistles and the firing of guns. There will be mpunted march of the gayly decorated knights and princes of Saxet from all the realm of Tekram.

(Editorial Note: I’m assuming you picked it up. – Saxet is backwards for Texas; Tekram is backwards for market. Those folks really got carried away in the celebration of their own, uh … cleverness.)

In spectacular effect and scenic magnificence, the No-Tsu-Oh Ball of 1905 will surpass all previous events. On this occasion the King and Queen will be crowned and revealed to the public. The ball room will be a garden spot of beauty, and when graced by the sprite-like form of the dancers, dreamland will be made a reality.

Be in Houston November 13-18, 1905. The No-Tsu-Oh carnival, (is certain to be) the greatest ever.

~ Brownsville Daily Herald, October 30, 1905. Page 1.


“Save the Astrodome. ~ Give new life to the Eighth Wonder of the World. ~ Vote Yes on Harris County Proposition 2.”

“Save the Astrodome. ~ Give new life to the Eighth Wonder of the World. ~ Vote Yes on Harris County Proposition 2.”


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