The Crankie Factory

From England, a crankie about Samuel Franklin Cody (1867-1913) an American Wild West showman and aviation pioneer, he was the first man to fly an aeroplane in Britain. Stewart Easton illustrated the cranky (which begins at 3:30 min.). Project headed by Nathaniel Mann who wrote the ballad and collaborated with Nepalese musicians.
American Indian Movement history cranky created by LEUT/HOBT Phillips Project. Madeline Helling/ Gustavo Boada

What's a Crankie?

Hello! I am a fiddler, guitarist, stepdancer and crankie artist living in Seattle, Washington.  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.  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 now by artists in the US and beyond).

To watch new crankies: click on the WATCH A CRANKIE pageIn that section you will find crankies made by me and many other artists from the US and Europe.

To watch moving panoramas that were made in the 19th Century, click on the HISTORY section.  There are videos of large and small 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, above all, I encourage you to make a crankie.

Sue Truman

Created Sept. 3rd, 2012

Find The Crankie Factory on FacebookYou Tube and you can follow me on Twitter at SueTruman1

Moving panorama of an alphabet of London Cries, from the Cotsen Children's Library, Princeton University. Used with permission.

A MOVING PANORAMA OF LONDON CRIES - Article published Sept. 16th, 2016. Written by Andrea Immel, PhD, curator of the Cotsen Children's Library at Princeton University. This article describes an 18th Century toy moving panorama in their collection along with  pictures of other very unusual toy moving panoramas.  Read the article here.

GALLERY OF UNUSUAL CRANKIE BOXES - Sometimes the design of the crankie box is related to the story.  Othe examples are just plain brilliant.  Click here to see them and enjoy!

International Panorama Council Conference to be held in New York City! Sept. 29th to Oct. 1st, 2017. I'm going!  Find out more here.

MAKING A PARALLAX THEATRE FOR VISUAL STORY TELLING - Paul Messer, an Architectural Engineer from Montreal, Quebec, has designed a parallax crankie!  Parallax moving panoramas were created in the 19th century and at least two were on display at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris. Read the article here and be INSPIRED!  Thank you to Paul for giving me permission to post.

How to Make a Moving Panorama Show - reprinted from the Children's Encyclopedia, The Book of Knowledge, 1910. Read it here. Enjoy!

CRANKIES MADE BY KIDS - Elise Witt, from Decatur, GA, worked with a group of children to creat five wonderful crankies.  Sam Bartlett provided crankie consultation.  Click on this LINK to read the article and view the videos.

For even more videos of crankies made by children, go to the Crankie Factory's Kid Page here.

John Bell and Trudi Cohen of Great Small Works performing "Ode to Common Things" at the opening of "Banners and Cranks: Paintings and Scrolls in Performance, Feb. 23rd, 2017. Banners painted by Peter Schumann of the Bread and Puppet Theater are hanging in the background.

BANNERS AND CRANKS: PAINTINGS AND SCROLLS IN PERFORMANCE - The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present the grand opening of its new exhibition Banners and Cranks: Paintings and Scrolls in Performance. The exhibit opens Thursday, February 23, 2017 and runs through June 19th.


Last but not least, some of my miniature crankies are featured in the exhbit. Totally honored!

1849 broadside. from Wikimedia

WHALING VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD A new article about the New Bedford Whaling Museum's 19th Century moving panorama from Hyperallergenic Conserving America's Longest Painting, a 19th-Century Whaling Panorama. 

Read the article here.

Visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum's website here.  Support the restoration effort  if you can!

Georama: An American Panorama Told on 3 Miles of Canvas is a musical about the life and times of 19th-Century moving panorama showman John Banvard.  The musical will playing in NYC July 10th-Aug. 6th, 2017.   For more information, click on this link.

I flew from Seattle to St. Louis in January, 2015, just to see this musical.  It was fabulous.  To learn more about the musical and John Banvard, click on this link.

WATCH A CRANKIE - Babylon - Artwork by Ines Zeller Bass. This crankie was an early exploration into the new show Babylon, a performance about refugees. The arrangement of the hymn Babylon is by Eric Bass and performed by Eric. The rectangular long shape of the box reflects the road the child and the caterpillar have to take. This show contains three small crankies that will are projected onto a large screen and depict the journey of three of the characters. Watch the video here.

Ines Zeller Bass and Eric Bass are Co-Directors of the Sandglass Theater in Putney, VT.  The theater has hosted three crankie sold out crakie festivals.  Visit their website


Henry Box Brown was one of the most amazing moving panorama showman of the 19th century. Read about this incredible story in the history section!

THE HISTORY SECTION! 17 pages of mostly 19th century moving panoramas.  I am busy working on new pages and updating old pages. 




Thank you to Errki Hutamo, Russell Potter, Suzanne Wray, Jeffrey Ruggles, Peter Morelli and everyone who has shared their research with me. 

Louis Leger testing one of his crankie boxes before shipping. The papercut scroll was made by his daughter-in-law, Dejah Leger.

BUY A CRANKIE KIT! I often get questions about where one can buy a wooden crankie box.  I asked my good friend and fellow crankie performer Louis Leger, (retired elementary teacher, now full time Grampa)  if he would consider making wooden boxes to sell and he said "yes"!

ETSY SHOP LINK HERE Watch a video of Louis assembling a box here. More information about the kits here!

Just as an aside, I am not receiving any funds, I just want folks to have a crankie box! Cool



This is Meg Chittenden.

Make a Crankie!  This section is for those of you 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
  • illuminating the box


Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles the book by Erkki Huhtamo has gone into it's 2nd printing and has received the highest rating "Essential"  from the American Library Association. If you are interested in learning about the history of moving panoramas THIS IS IT!  Check out Erkki's website



NW Folklife Festival's Crankie Fest, May 2017. Grand Finale Crankie Rewind! We had an extra few minutes at the end. Eight crankie artists came out and reverse-cranked while Kevin Auld played the Scottish Small Pipes! Photo by Doug Plummer