The Crankie Factory

SEATTLE CRANKIE FEST! Sat. Oct. 1st @ NW Puppet Center

Join us and crankie cat at the Northwest Puppet Center in Seattle for a very special event featuring:

KATHERINE FAHEY - from Baltimore, providing tons of inspiration

SQUIRREL BUTTER - see Charmaine's one-of-a-kind foot-powered crankie box



Crankie merch and a crankie workshop by Dejah Leger. Here is the Face Book event page

and here is ticket information.  Hope you can make it!

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


THE HISTORY SECTION! 17 pages of mostly 19th century moving panoramas.  I am working on some new pages, not finished but feel free to take a peek! 






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

ANNA & ELIZABETH ON TOUR IN THE UK! DEAR FRIENDS ACROSS THE POND: Anna and Elizabeth, the Queens of Crank, are on tour NOW through Aug. 2016,  in the UK.  Don't miss them.  Here is the link to their tour schedule.

Gum Tree Canoe - Cranky Show directed by Sam Bartlett at Pinewoods Family Camp in Plymouth, MA in July 2014. Music by Abby Ladin, Keith Murphy, & Sam Bartlett. Sam has made collaborative crankies with small communities  across the country from Gustavus, AK to Plymouth, MA for the past 20 years. Visit his very fun website at  and watch the crankie here!

For the history part of the workshop, I am bringing a couple 19th century artifacts: a hand-cranked Chautaugua writing table and a magic lantern.

CRANKIE WORKSHOP The Felt-A-Con festival is Aug. 13th and 14th, 2016.
I'll be giving a talk/demonstration on Saturday afternoon at the Seattle Children's Theatre.   Really looking forward to this! Register here!

In this workshop/demo you will see:demonstrations of crankie scrolls made from Tyvek and stitched from felt and fabric

- a short history of moving panoramas and moving drops from the 19th century

- an overview of various methods of making scrolls

- demonstration of using the scroll with shadow puppetry and automatons

WATCH A CRANKIE - This section of the website contains videos from crankie artists around the world.  The newest one comes from vocalist and Waldorf teacher Meg Chittenden from Blue Hill, Maine.  Images from The Giant Turnip, a children's story. 

I believe this is papercut black images glued to culinary parchment paper and a hole was cut in the scroll and then patched with white paper for the moon. This is crankie magic!   Watch it HERE and learn more about Meg at

An Exhibitor's Diary - 1855  A most remarkable document. This is the diary of a moving panorama showman who exhibited the Moving Panorama of California in New Hampshire and Maine from September to November 1855.  The moving panorama was transported by a horse drawn wagon.  This document comes from the collection of The Maine Historical Society via the Saco Museum and Peter Morelli.  Heartfelt thanks to all for making this available.

This was Naomi Harvey's work in progress.

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


The Trans-Siberian Express at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900 - A fabulous article written by Arjan den Boer, published Nov. 2014, In 1900, at the Paris Universal Exposition, there were not one, but two moving panoramas of the Trans-Siberian Express. One of the moving panoramas painted by Pavel Piasetsky survives to this day and is housed at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The picture is Pavel Piasetsky with his moving panorama. This is the most panoramic box ever!

Henry Box Brown  (1816-c.1889) was a Virginia slave who escaped to freedom by arranging to have himself shipped to Philadelphia abolitionists in a wooden box. He  went on to become a successful moving panorama showman in the US and then in England. 

Read about this truly remarkable story. Find out more in the book The Unboxing of Henry Brown by Jeffrey Ruggles.

Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles by Prof. 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



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"!


THE KITS ARE SELLING! If you do not see a crankie kit on the Etsy site, that means they are temporarily sold out. Just send a message to Louis at the "Contact Store Owner" button and he will get some more made.  Yeah!!!

Watch a video of Louis assembling a box here.

There is more information about the kits here. Just as an aside, I am not receiving any funds, I just want folks to be able to have a box to make crankies!! Yay!!


Crankie Cat - by Matt Muirhead
Matt Muirhead from Baltimore. Totally inspirational. Have no idea how he puts these images on a Tyvek scroll. And that is him playing mbira as well.