The Crankie Factory

What's a Crankie?

Sue Truman in the cabin. Original photo by Doug Plummer. Then digitized!

Welcome! I am a fiddler, guitarist, stepdancer and crankie artist living in Seattle. A crankie is an old storytelling art form. It's a long illustrated scroll that is wound onto two spools. The spools are loaded into a box which has a viewing screen. The scroll is hand-cranked while the story is told. It can be accompanied by a narrative, song or tune. If you haven't seen one before, then a picture (or video) is worth a thousand words. You will find hours of viewing on this site.

The term crankie is being used now to name this very old art form. In the 19th Century, they were called moving panoramas (among many other names).  This scrolling, picture art form is experiencing a bit of a comeback and I am very excited to be a part of it. This website attempts to connect the old (moving panoramas of the 19th Century) with the new (crankies being made today by artists in the US and beyond).

To watch new crankies: click on the WATCH A CRANKIE page. In that section you will find crankies made by artists from the US and abroad. To watch moving panoramas that were made in the 19th Century, click on the HISTORY section.  There are videos of LARGE  and SMALL moving panoramas that have been filmed by museums, historical societies and private collectors.  Heartfelt thanks and gratitude to those individuals working to restore and preserve this forgotten piece of our history.

I hope you enjoy exploring this site, AND I encourage you to MAKE A CRANKIE!

Sue Truman

Created Sept. 3rd, 2012. Find The Crankie Factory on FACEBOOK and You Tube.  I am posting a lot on Instagram under the clever name of SueTruman1050.

See description below, used with permission.
The moving panorama pays tribute to lighthouse keeper Abbie Burgess (1839–1892). Known for her bravery in tending the Matinicus Rock Light in Maine, she saved many lives.

Abbie Burgess, Lighthouse Heroine, on display in the windows of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockport, Maine until Jan 15th, 2019. 

This EPIC work was painted by Annie Bailey. Andrew White made the cranking apparatus and Dayle Ward stitched the canvas together.  The revolving scroll is painted with ink on cotton fabric.  See more of Annie's work at her website and visit the Farnsworth!

On a historical note, moving panoramas were sometimes displayed in department store windows during the holiday season in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries.

This is the first known illustration of a moving panorama mechanism. It appeared in a French book in 1782. This information comes from the book Illusions in Motion by Prof. Erkki Huhtamo. Scroll down to the bottom of this webpage to find out more about the book.

THE HISTORY SECTION! 22 pages of mostly 19th century moving panoramas.


Thank you to Erkki Hutamo, Russell Potter, Suzanne Wray, Jeffrey Ruggles, Peter Morelli, Sara Velas,  Michelle Grandshaw and all who have graciously shared their research with me.

2019 Baltimore Crankie Fest! Jan. 4th-8th, 2019.   I went to this (from Seattle) a couple years ago and WOW, incredible.  They have expanded to five concerts.  The line-up is not yet announced but I expect that Katherine Fahey and Matt Muirhead will be two of the performers. Here is the facebook event page.

19th Century special effects In the mirage scene, the city magically appears when the scroll is backlit with a candle!

LONDON TO HONG KONG IN TWO HOURS - A 19th Century parlor panorama from England survives! Special thanks to artist David Brill (whose great, great grandfather and his son, painted the moving panorama in 1860) for giving permission to use these images. The scroll is painted on paper with watercolor and backed with cloth. It's 14" high and 173 feet long and includes special effects!

Look at this crankie box made by puppeteer Alison Clark of Scotland!

MAKE A CRANKIE This section is for those setting out to make your first crankie.  It's a compilation of pictures and tips from various artists:

how to make a crankie box,

material choices for the scroll,

designing the crankie scroll  and

illuminating the box.

Singing, piano and artwork by Julie Vallimont. Song composed by Joe Raposo.

WATCH A CRANKIE - Over 100 videos of crankies from artists around the world.  Big crankies, miniature crankies, crankies made by children, crankies with puppetry, unusual crankie boxes and more  Thank you Cranksters for sharing your wonderful work!

Watch Julie Vallimont’s new crankie below!

Singing, piano and artwork by Julie Vallimont. Song composed by Joe Raposo.
Ha, ha. This is my copy. Coffee stains, highlighted, dog-eared, tagged and worn = well-used!

Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles is the book by Professor Erkki Huhtamo. If you are interested in learning about the history of moving panoramas THIS IS IT!

NEW WEBPAGE! See Erkki's collection of 19th century toy and souvenir moving panoramas.


Crankie Show with Podorythmie - Jan. 12th, 2019 in Seattle, I will be giving a very special crankie show with the band PODORYTHMIE.  The chickens and kitty will be there! Here is the facebook event page.