Rowland Robbins McElvare (1893-1976), an amateur lepidopterist, was born in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Columbia College in 1913, and, after taking advanced degrees at Columbia University and Harvard, entered the banking profession in 1917. Two years later he married Lillian Adele Waring, with whom he spent the rest of his life. McElvare became prominent in the field of banking and finance, eventually rising to the position of Director of the Public National Bank and Trust Company of New York, as well as serving as President of the Savings and Loan Division of the American Banking Association. He was also a member of the faculty of the Graduate School of Banking.
McElvare's interest in lepidopterology had its beginnings early in his life under the guidance of George P. Englehardt of the Brooklyn Museum. In the mid-1930s, McElvare decided to focus his attention on the noctuid subfamily Heliothiinae, a day-flying moth, principally found in the Southwest, which hitherto had attracted little scholarly interest. He began compiling information on this variety of insect, a difficult task due to the lack of material. Few institutions held useful collections of Heliothiinae, and extensive field work was still needed to obtain complete specimen collections, as well as gathering data on the life cycle of Heliothids. McElvare, in the course of his studies, which were conducted after business hours until his retirement in 1953, assembled one of the most comprehensive collections of Heliothiinae extant, and in addition supplied type and paratype specimens to the United States National Museum and the British Museum (Natural History). During the period most heavily represented in this collection, 1940-1960, Rowland Robbins McElvare was the foremost American authority on Heliothiinae.
McElvare published numerous journal articles on his work, including several describing new species of Heliothiinae and on the synonymy of a species hitherto thought valid. The majority of his publications appeared in the Journal of the Brooklyn Entomological Society, of which he was President from 1945 to 1947.