The Crankie Factory

Just plain silly, but I am having a great time mixing crankies with other cranking things. Whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you the best. Much love, Sue

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

Broadside for John Banvard's moving panorama of the Mississippi River. It was a smashing success in England in the mid 1800s and started the "Panoramania" craze.

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. 

The kits are selling!

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"!


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!!


THE HOLLAND THEATER -  Sam Bartlett, Artist in Residency, worked with elementary and middle school student to creatE a cranky about a local, historic building, The Holland Theater in Bellefontaire, Ohio. Visit his very funny website at  Watch the crankie here.

ORA, music by Lisa Hannigan, artwork by Maeve Clancy.

WATCH A CRANKIE - This section of the website contains videos from crankie artists around the world.  The newest one  ORA - comes from artist Maeve Clancy who lives in the West of Ireland. Lisa Hannigan provides the beautiful song.

Maeve works primarily with paper, cutting intricate images and sculptures from paper.  WATCH the video HERE.

Visit her website


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.

THE INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA COUNCIL -  I have been invited by the IPC to contribute an article about the current crankie revival! This will be included in a book celebrating their 25th anniversary.  Honored!

4,500 words max., deadline is the end of Nov. 2016. Should be finished by mid November and then I have a TON of new things for the website. 

Check out the IPC's website. They have a data base of surviving moving panoramas.  Become a member!

Illusions in Motion is richly illustrated with photos from Erkki's collection.

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



1860s Toy Moving Panorama from the Milton Bradley Co.
This toy moving panorama is from the collection of Erkki Huhtamo. Filmed by me! Made sometime in the 1860s the "kit" also included a script, small ticket to the show and a poster to advertise it.