The Crankie Factory

Behind the Scenes
Have you wondered what cranking a crankie looks like from behind the box? I am gathering up videos from small crankies (this 19th Century miniature moving panorama is from the collection of Erkki Huhtamo) to "crankie-sized crankies" to large moving panoramas. Stay tuned for that new group of videos. Here is a taste.

What's a Crankie?

Hello! I am a fiddler, guitarist, stepdancer and crankie artist living in Seattle, Washington.  What exactly is a crankie?  It's a panoramic scene, rolled up inside a box, then hand-cranked so that it scrolls across a viewing screen.  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 mid 19th Century, they were called moving panoramas (among other things).  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 "Moving Panorama" 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 looking around this site, AND, above all, I encourage you to make a crankie. There is no right or wrong here, you just do it and enjoy the process. 

Sue Truman

Created Sept. 3rd, 2012


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 then 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.

Crankie Fest - East Meets West - September 2014, Baltimore artist Katherine Fahey traveled to Seattle to visit family.  Well, this called for a crankie fest!  She joined creative forces with Dejah Leger, Sue Truman with the group Podorythmie and Gregory Johnson.  See pictures from the rehearsals and performance.

The Magic Lantern Society of United States and Canada  Magic Lanterns were another form of pre-cinema entertainment popular in the latter part of the 19th Century.  They often shared the stage at moving panorama shows. Also, magic lanterns were used in conjuction with moving panoramas by projecting an image onto the scroll from the front or behind, creating a special effect. 

This is totally cool stuff! Visit their website to find out more. 

Letter from an Unknown Women - A three minute excerpt from the 1948 movie. It shows a couple in an amusement park where they are taking the train ride.  The scenery that is passing by in the window is a bicycle powered moving panorama.

The International Panorama Council (IPC) is a non-government and not-for-profit association. The goal of the organization is to promote professional trusteeship and stimulate worldwide research and communication on both historic and modern panoramas (both stationary and moving panoramas). The Association is active in the fields of restoration, research, financing, exhibiting and marketing of panoramas.

BREAKING NEWS! The new president of the IPC is Sara Velas of Los Angeles - congratulations Sara! Sara's artwork is sprinkled throughout this website.

Visit the IPC's website and consider becoming a member. The next conference is in Belgium in Sept. of 2015 - I'm going!

ON-LINE CRANKIE FEST - Two new crankies added: When This World Comes to An End by  Brendan Taaffe of Brattleboro, VT and Jalan-Jalan Through Batuan by Sara Velas of Los Angeles, CA.  Check it out!

Polar Panoramas is a mix of historic information provided by historian and author Russell Potter (pictured here) and modern day interpretations of the artform from three artists.

Sometimes I Pretend is a scrolling book by Peter and Donna Thomas of Santa Cruz, CA. They are paper makers, book artists and authors. This is a limited edition (35 copies). The books are made of handmade paper, letter press printed with both metal and wood type and the box is wooden with wooden sprocket cranks.

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! AND, check out his new website



Caravan Crankie Lullaby
From Wales, this enchanting paper cut crankie was made by Pamela Wyn Shannon. The first of many I hope. I love that you can hear the paper rattling - I love that sound.