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Elmer Messner collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RITArt-0017

Scope and Contents

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.


  • Creation: 1887-1977
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1922 - 1964

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Rochester in 1901, Messner graduated from RIT (at the time called Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute) in 1919 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."


26.64 Linear Feet (41 Oversize lid boxes, 7 File boxes, 6 Document boxes)




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.


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

Physical Location

C.S. North, Shelves 87, 91-94
C.S. South, Shelves 262-266

Other Finding Aids

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

Elmer Messner collection

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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


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

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Amy Vilz in August 2011.

Elmer Messner collection
RIT Art Collection
Amy Vilz
26 August 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA