History of the Yackety Yack

The Yackety Yack has a long and storied history as the official yearbook of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The annual publication began in 1890 as The Hellenian, published by the university fraternities.  The first edition included a salutatory which read as follows:

 “And now, as our work draws to a close, we are reminded of the fact that a salutatory is necessary, or rather will be expected. Just why such is the case is not so easily determined. Of course, like all young editors, we are proud of our achievement and justly so, we think. We have encountered all the difficulties incident to issuing the first number of such a publication. Consequently we think we are somewhat wiser than we were before. We know that we have more patience, and our stock of cheek, too, has been greatly increased. So without any further comment we wish to present The Hellenian to the college world and trust that our labor may meet with the approval of all who feel a sincere interest in college work.” –The Editors, The Hellenian 1890

Each edition of The Hellenian contained the same basic elements: a list of each classes’ officers and members as well as a written history of each class, including the Law Class, and later the Medical class. The list also included a list of fraternity chapters; other clubs on campus; athletics; and various miscellany including stories, quotations, and other random items such as a “Wanted List.” The editions would end in an advertisement section. Many of the contents within the miscellany section were meant in jest. In the 1894 edition of The Hellenian, there was a page called “Rules for Library and Reading Room” whose rules went along the line of “No person must think of using less than two chairs at one time, for fear of some being unoccupied.” 

The book was not well-received and even described as “cold” in the second edition, published in 1891. By 1900, the group still wasn’t seen favorably, so they looked to change their strategy. In the introduction, the editors discussed how they looked to make the book more of a “fraternity hand-book” rather than trying to capture the full university life. This transition came from the lack of “both financial and moral support,” however, the structure of the contents of the annual stayed generally the same. The next year, in 1901, the first edition of The Yackety Yack was produced in The Hellenian’s place.

Initially, the Yackety Yack was published by both the literary societies and the fraternities. The joint effort was meant to represent the whole life of the University in hopes to make the annual a permanent addition to the university. The name “Yackety Yack” came from a popular college cheer that can be found in the 1897 edition of The Hellenian. According to the 1966 The Yackety Yack, the name was suggested by J.C.B. Ehringhaus, who not only has a dorm named after him, but went on to be the 58th Governor of North Carolina.

The 1901 edition of the annual still shared many common features with The Hellenian, however there was a notable difference in the pages dedicated to “Non-Fraternity” elements. Including these pages was part of the original compromise in publishing The Yackety Yack, but there was marked tension. This tension was University-wide as “politics [had] become a race between Frats and Non-Frats.” The section goes on to mention positions Non-Frats hold in the University, however the last page bluntly states that this was not to vaunt them but merely tell what they are doing. The paragraph ends poking fun at the group with statements such as “They do not wear dress suits, not because they would not look nice, but because they have none.” 

The Yackety Yack proved to be more successful that The Hellenian. As the University grew, so did the book. Over time, the annual came to incorporate more images and aspects of University Life. The Greek Fraternities still held their spot within the annual, but it grew to add Sororities, ROTC, the administration and faculty and much more. Each edition took on its own unique style and through its pages showed what it meant to be a part of UNC. The Yackety Yack was published by the Dialectic and Philanthropic Literary Societies and Fraternities until 1924. The Publications Union picked up the annual until 1940. From 1940 to 1965, the annual was published by the Students of the University of North Carolina. Afterwards, the publication shifted to an outside company. From 1966 onward, the publication of the annual exchanged hands between multiple groups and companies. 

Today, The Yackety Yackis a student run organization dedicated to capturing each moment, day, semester and year at Carolina. Editors, designers, photographers and writers make up the Yack staff, working countless hours to produce a book that truly embodies the lively and inclusive spirit of UNC that future generations can cherish and enjoy.

“What we have done is a beginning, and each year is a new beginning.” – 1966, The Yackety Yack


Digitized Editions of the Hellenian and the Yackety Yack up to the year 1978 can be found as part of the NC Collection: Click Here