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.

NEW WEBPAGE - 1893 Advertising Wagon

This would be great for a parade or a march. You could be the first in over 100 years to use one!

From the Automatic Advertising Panorama Company,  the patent for the 1893  wagon. The scroll is connected to the movement of the wheel axles  so that the scroll is cranked as the wagon is pulled.  There is also a switch to disconnect it from the axles so it can be cranked by hand. Read more here.


Melissa Wolfe, Curator of American Art at the St. Louis Art Museum, points out details of one scene of the panorama in 2015.

The St. Louis Art Museum's will display The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley while it is being restored. Painted in 1850, it will be displayed "on it's rollers"  for two months beginning May 31 2019. Read about it here!

I'm Teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School in the Fall!

John C. Campbell Folk School - Oct. 27th to Nov. 1st, 2019 - I will be teaching a week-long, crankie-making class in Brasstown, NC. This folk school, which was estabished in 1925, is ART AND CRAFT HEAVEN. I am thrilled to do this! Come and make crankie magic with me! Find out more here.

UPDATE - THREE SPACES LEFT on Jun 25th, 2019.


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:

Here's a 3 minute video from award-winning author Paul Fleischman. Three adorable tiny crankie theaters. I'm inspired!


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.

The International Panorama Council Conference to be held at the Atlanta Cyclorama, Sept. 2019

The Atlanta Cyclorama was painted by Milwaukee artists in the 1880s. The artists are on a scaffold because the painting is 49 feet tall! Whoa.

THE INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA COUNCIL - The 28th annual conference will be held Sept. 26-27, 2019.  Honored that I will be one of the presenters! My talk with be about HiberniconsFind out more here.

The conference will be at the Atlanta History Center, at the new Atlanta Cyclorama.

Forever is a Long Time
Song composed and sung by Scott Nolan of Winnipeg. Crankie artwork by Sue Truman. Machine cut and hand cut white Tyvek images, painted with watercolor then glued to a watercolor-washed Tyvek scroll. This was performed last September, 2018 and recently filmed by Doug Plummer. Thank you Doug!