Elsner was born May 29, 1859 in Silesia. He attended public school, gymnasium and technical college in Germany. He came to Milwaukee in 1880 and became a leader of the Brewery Workers Union by 1886. Later he attended Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin Law School where he graduated in 1894, becoming a self-described "practicing lawyer by profession."
Politics and public office
By 1898, he was the Socialist nominee for Attorney General of Wisconsin, coming in fifth in a six-way race. In 1900, he was again the nominee, placing fourth in a five-way race; by 1902, he had moved up to third in another five-way race, repeating the performance in 1906.
He was a county judge of Milwaukee County from 1910-1916. In 1916 he was the Socialist nominee for the United States Senate, coming in third in a four-way race in which incumbent Republican Robert M. La Follette, Sr. was re-elected. In 1919 Elsner was elected register of deeds of Milwaukee County for the first of two terms. He was elected a member of the assembly in November, 1922, receiving 1,679 votes to unseat incumbent Republican Leander J. Pierson (1663 votes); and was appointed to the standing committees on the judiciary and on insurance and banking.
After legislative service
- Froehlich, Wm. H., ed. The blue book of the state of Wisconsin Madison: 1899; p. 376
- Erickson, Halford, ed. The blue book of the state of Wisconsin Madison: 1903; p. 602
- Beck, J. D., ed. The blue book of the state of Wisconsin Madison: Democrat Printing Co., State Printer, 1907; p. 1121
- The Wisconsin blue book, 1923 Madison: 1923; pp. 580, 589, 631
- Holmes, Fred L., ed. The Wisconsin blue book, 1925 Madison: Democrat Printing Company, State Printer, 1925; p. 672
- Richard Elsner Papers, 1854-1967