Elmer Messner collection

RIT Art Collection

Table of Contents

Collection Overview
Biographical Information for Elmer Messner
Scope and Content
Additional Finding Aids
Subject Headings
Information for Researchers
Administrative Information
Related Materials

Collection Overview (Collapse)

Elmer Messner collection
Bulk Date(s)
Inclusive Date(s)
Elmer Messner collection contains 1,500 political cartoons, mainly in pen and ink; newsprint clippings of Messner's work; and cartoons from other artists collected by or gifted to Messner.
26.64 Linear feet (41 Oversize lid boxes, 7 File boxes, 6 Document boxes)
C.S. North, Shelves 87, 91-94
C.S. South, Shelves 262-266
RIT Archive Collections
RIT Libraries
Wallace Center
90 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, New York, 14623
(585) 475-2557

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Biographical Information for Elmer Messner (Collapse)

Born in Rochester in 1901, Messner graduated from RIT (at the time called Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute) in 1918 with an art degree. While at RIT he studied illustration and contributed his talents as art director of the yearbook, The Ramikin. After graduating, he continued his studies at the Art Students League of New York, eventually returning to Rochester to join the staff of the Rochester Times-Union. Starting in 1925 Messner taught drawing at RIT, and remained on the faculty for 20 years. His cartoons were reproduced in newspapers and magazines across the country and around the world. He left to work at the Democrat and Chronicle for a few years, but returned to the Times-Union where he continued as editorial cartoonist until his retirement in 1964. He died in 1979, at 78 years old.

Messner was active in a number of local and national organizations. He served as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and vice-president of the National Cartoonist Society. Well known in the local art community, he was vice-president of Rochester Art Club from 1944-1949, and continued as president of the organization for four more years. He was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award from RIT in 1963. Frank Gannett, founder of the Gannett newspaper group, described Messner's talent as "the rare ability to reduce to a simple line, or a combination of lines, the story or an event and the feeling of the people."

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Scope and Content (Collapse)

The Elmer Messner collection contains original artwork by Messner, mainly pen and ink, numbering some 1,500 cartoons. There are also newsprint clippings of his cartoons, as well as those of other artists collected by or gifted to Messner. This latter category includes tearsheets of political cartoons from Puck and Judge (circa 1887-1893). Other artists represented in the collection include Bill Crawford, Grover Page, Robert Carter, and John Scott Clubb among others.

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Arrangement (Collapse)

Original artwork by Messner is arranged by number; newsprint clippings are arranged chronologically.

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Additional Finding Aids (Collapse)

In addition to this finding aid, an inventory is available below. For more information, please contact the RIT Archive Collections.

Elmer Messner collection

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Subject Headings (Collapse)

Personal Name(s)

  • Messner, Elmer R., 1900-1979

Corporate Name(s)

  • Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute -- Faculty.
  • Rochester Institute of Technology -- Art collections.
  • Rochester Institute of Technology -- Faculty.

Geographic Name(s)

  • Rochester (N.Y.) -- History -- 20th century


  • Drawings (visual works)
  • Political cartoons

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Information for Researchers (Collapse)

Preferred Citation

Elmer Messner collection, RIT Art Collection

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open to researchers.

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Administrative Information (Collapse)

Collection ID


Source of Acquisition

The Elmer Messner collection was donated in 1981 by his wife Grace Messner.

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Amy Vilz in August 2011.

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Related Materials (Collapse)

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Bibliography (Collapse)

Elmer Messner at Art on Campus, Rochester Institute of Technology.

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