The university's first yearbook, The Hellenian, was published in 1890. As reflected in the name, the yearbook was published by the campus fraternities. It included photos of students, engravings, and information about the classes. In 1901 the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies joined as copublishers and the name was changed to Yackety Yack, drawing from a popular school cheer. The yearbook grew with the university. In addition to photos of students and groups, it was also a source of creativity, with some early issues including poetry and humorous class histories and always serving as a showcase for student photographers.
The 1920s marked an especially creative series of yearbooks, perhaps inspired in part by future novelist Thomas Wolfe, editor of the 1920 Yackety Yack. Many of the yearbooks from that era included a great deal of information about members of the senior class, including short biographies, caricatures, and their height and weight. The yearbook editors in those days also showed a cruel sense of humor as the page of senior superlatives included not just positive ones (like Best Orator and Best Athlete) but negative ones as well, including Ugliest and Laziest.
The period of robust and creative yearbooks continued through the mid-twentieth century, with the 1972 Yackety Yack named the best in the country by the Printing Industry of America. By the 1990s and 2000s it became harder to represent a much larger and more diverse student body in a single yearbook. Fewer students had their pictures taken for the Yackety Yack or purchased the yearbook. In the 2010s the Yackety Yack finally ended its run of annual publication, with no yearbooks appearing in 2013 and 2014 before resuming publication in 2015.