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, a song is sung or a tune is played.  If you haven't seen one before, then a 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 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 SueTruman1015.

More Than Meets the Eye - The Magic of the Panorama - 2019

My article about the crankie revival has been published in this book by the International Panorama Council. I am honored to be included! The book contains 25 articles by International Panorama Council members and includes at least three articles on 19th century moving panoramas.  It will be for sale through the International Panorama Council and Amazon. I will post more information as soon as it is available for purchase. 

In the meantime, click on this link to see a description of the book.

The 2nd Annual Winnipeg Crankie Festival!

Nov. 8th-10th, 2019 - This festival is dedicated to the great Mitch Podolak, founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival and a person who touched and inspired many lives.

I will be giving a two hour crankie workshop on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  Puppeteer, Cody Neal Creed is collaborating with me in the workshop, by helping participants add shadow puppetry to the crankie!  It's going to be EPIC!!

Here is the link for more information.

The John C. Campbell Folk School

John C. Campbell Folk School - Oct. 27th to Nov. 1st, 2019 - My week at the Folk School was incredible.  I am working on a page to show you the student's work and I will post that link when the page is done.  I am tentatively confirmed to return to teach the week of  Oct. 25th, 2020!  🙂 I will let you know when registration is available for that class.

NEW WEBPAGE - Arctic Moving Panoramas

The midnight sun came over the northern crest of the great berg, kindling variously-colored fires on every part of its surface, and making us one great piece of gem-work, blazing carbuncles and rubies and molten gold. Elisha Kent Kane, 1850s.

Arctic expeditions were big news and moving panoramas were the news reels of the day. The enormous paintings traveled from town to town. Moving panorama showman told stories of ships "nipped" in the ice and men bravely going where no white man had gone before. Artifacts from the expeditions were brought back and put on display at the shows.  To add even more authenticity, some shows had a member of the expedition appear to tell stories first hand.   The public was captivated. EXPLORE AT THIS LINK.


Horse race by Mantell Manikins featuring the revolving drop. The original marionettes and drop are part of The Cook/Marks Collection at Northwest Puppet Center.

THE HISTORY SECTION   Twenty five pages of 19th century moving panorama information.  Thank you to Erkki Hutamo, Russell Potter, Suzanne Wray, Jeffrey Ruggles, Peter Morelli, Sara Velas,  Michelle Grandshaw, Nick Whitmer and all who have graciously shared their research with me.

Check out the new webpage THE NORTHWEST PUPPET CENTER - Examples of late 19th/early 20th moving drops with puppetry. Many thanks to Dmitri Carter for sharing these rare images.


NEW WEBPAGE - Make a shadow puppet. Shadow puppetry can be a nice addition to the crankie, especially if it contains action scenes.

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:


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 crankiescrow crankies and  more.  Thank you Cranksters for sharing your wonderful crankies!!


Ha, ha. This is my copy. Coffee stained, highlighted, dog-eared = 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.

From Baltimore, MD, Lee Connah made this tribute to his late Uncle. That's his uncle singing on a recording from a few years back. For more information about Lee -