ELTA was founded in 1920 in Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania, by Juozas Eretas, the first director of the agency, a literature professor, publicist, and public figure of Swiss descent who sought to make the ELTA news wire as efficient and reliable as a "Swiss watch".
Between 1920 and 1940, ELTA cooperated closely with the most prominent foreign agencies – its five teleprinters used to send news from Reuters, DNB, HAVAS, STEFANI and TASS. Between 1926 and 1927, the director of ELTA was Justas Paleckis, who later in 1940 was installed as Premier Minister by the Soviets.
When Soviet troops occupied Lithuania in 1940, ELTA was incorporated as a part of the USSR information service known as TASS and relayed news from Moscow over the period 1940–1990. With the recovery of national sovereignty in 1990, ELTA also re-established its independence from TASS and its direct contacts with leading global agencies. In 1996, ELTA became an independent (non state-owned) national news agency. Now, ELTA is a stock company.