Born in Rochester in 1901, Elmer 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."