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George H. Yater papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2005_071-UA

This collection consists of material relating to Yater's interests in the history of Louisville, Kentucky and the history of rail transportation. There are also some personal papers and records from George and Marjory Yater. The vast majority of these materials date to the 20th century. The topical files that make up a large portion of this collection contain newspaper clippings, brochures, photocopied materials, research notes, and photographs. Also included in the collection are images in various formats, including slides, prints, stereo images, and postcards; audio recordings; postage stamps; videotapes; and periodicals.

Yater's interests in the history of Louisville are reflected in topical files on subjects ranging from landmark buildings and neighborhoods to files on historic and notable families from Louisville and Kentucky more generally. There are also historical materials relating to Kentucky outside of the Louisville metropolitan area.

The bulk of this collection, however, relates to rail transportation, including inter-urbans and light rail. In addition to reference files, there are several boxes of periodicals, many dating to the early 20th century, as well as photographs and recordings of sounds and songs relating to railroads.

Personal and professional papers include a small number of George's professional writings, including a manuscript of Two Hundred Years at the Falls of the Ohio and other articles. Personal papers include Marjory's diaries from 1985-1995, bird watching notes and correspondence. Four other boxes contain Yater's research notecards.

There are also postal materials, including postcards (mainly geographical) and postmarks and stamps.


  • 1852-2004


Language of Materials

The materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The bulk of this collection is open to researchers; some portions are restricted (see box/folder listing)

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for some material has not been transferred to the University of Louisville.


54.05 linear feet

Biographical / Historical

George Henry Yater was born August 15, 1922 in Louisville, Kentucky, the second son of James David and Ellen Fahy Yater. His only sibling, James David, Jr., died in 1915 at the age of two years. Yater grew up in the Beechmont neighborhood. His father worked as a yardman for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, thus providing the impetus for his lifelong interest in trains. Yater attended both Beechmont Elementary School and Holy Name School, graduating from the latter in 1936. He then attended St. Xavier High School, graduating in 1940. Having an academic bent and an inquiring mind, Yater became vitally interested in all aspects of Louisville life and the city's history.

In December 1942, one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Yater volunteered for military service and was inducted into the United States Army. He went to basic training in Miami Beach, followed by technical training in West Palm Beach and Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was assigned to the signal corps and served in India and Burma, and later on Wake Island. He was honorably discharged from the army in March 1946.

He returned to Louisville, attending the University of Louisville on the G.I. Bill and at the same time beginning his career in journalism as a "copy boy" for the Louisville Courier-Journal. He earned a B.A. in history in 1950. About the same time he met a young New York native, Marjory Horton Jupenlaz, who was completing a social work internship in Louisville. She returned to New York, and Yater began studying at Columbia University. George and Marjory were married in December 1951. They settled in New Albany, Indiana as Yater had been hired as a reporter for the Louisville Times, a position he held until 1955.

For the next three decades Yater worked as an editor for a trade publication (The Insurance Field), as a features writer for the Courier-Journal Sunday Magazine, as director of the news bureau for the Kentucky Department of Public Information, as editor of Louisville Magazine, and in the Office of Sponsored Programs at the University of Louisville.

In 1979, George Yater published his first book, the widely acclaimed definitive history of Louisville: Two Hundred Years at the Falls of the Ohio: A History of Louisville and Jefferson County. He completed a second edition of this book in 1987. Yater then served as an advisor on the Louisville area for The Kentucky Encyclopedia, published in 1992. The success of this volume brought about the publication of The Encyclopedia of Louisville (published in 2000), of which Yater served as an associate editor.

Beyond his strictly professional accomplishments are Yater's contributions to many organizations, including the Kentucky Historical Society, the Filson Historical Society, the Floyd County Historical Society, the Louisville Historical League, the Beargrass-St. Matthews Historical Society, the Portland Museum, Riverside, the Farnsley-Moreman Landing, the Kentucky Railway Museum, the Louisville Trolley Club, and the Louisville chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

George Yater died on January 25, 2006.


These materials are arranged into eight series: Personal and Professional Writing and Research; History; Transportation; Images; Postal; Railway Serials; Audio Visual Materials; and Oversized and Realia. Within these broad topics, the materials are arranged by subseries; within subseries, the files are arranged alphabetically.


Guide to the George H. Yater papers
Processed by John Kleber; machine-readable finding aid created by Carrie Daniels
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752