The Crankie Factory

What's a crankie?

I made this image for a 2020 crankie fest that didn't happen! We will get back to that. For right now, everyone stay safe and take good care.

Welcome! I am a fiddler, guitarist and crankie artist from Seattle. What's a crankie you ask? They are an old storytelling art form. Start with  a long illustrated scroll that is wound onto two spools. The spools are loaded into a box which has a viewing window. The scroll is then  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). They originated in Europe in the late 18th century.   This scrolling, picture art form is experiencing a comeback and I am excited to be a part of it. This website attempts to connect the old (moving panoramas of the 18th/19th century) with the new (crankies being made today by artists around the world).

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.

Rayna Gellert is fiddling Sugar in the Gourd. It's from her CD Ways of the World. I visit my next door neighbor's chickens almost every day and feed them homegrown kale and collards.

2022 Baltimore Crankie Festival, May 20-22

The 8th annual crankie fest happening soon in Baltimore, with an incredible line up of artists. The photo is a crankie made by Josh Kohn, Tine Kindermann with Michael Winograd.  It tells the story of the wild and wonderful musician Nafule Brandwein. 

Other performing cranksters: Katherine Fahey, Emily Schubert, Maise O'Brien, Jay and Jody Best and others.  For more information.  

1853 Moving Panorama of Niagra Falls painted by Godfrey Frankenstein

Sadly, Frankenstein's moving panorama did not survive. This is one of his paintings of the Falls which gives us a glimpse of what the moving panorama might have looked like.

Godfrey Frankenstein, a 19th century painter, was fascinated with the majesty of Niagra Falls.  He made numerous trips to the Falls over a nine year period, making over 200 paintings and sketches.  Then, he created the moving panorama which was approximately 12' high and 1600' in length.  It turned out to be a great success on Broadway and beyond.

Fast forward to the 21st century, Richard C. Douglas, a native of Niagra Falls, with a background in film, spents several year researching the painting and moving panorama history in general.  He created the YouTube video below. Thank you Richard! Watch below and enjoy!

The History Section - Civil War Moving Panoramas

Panorama of the Union Army of the Cumberland. This is the opening scene where a soldier is saying goodbye to his family. Courtesy of National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.

In September of 2021,  I attended the International Panorama Council Conference (virtual) and heard a fantastic talk given by Dr. Gordon Jones of the Atlanta History Museum. He presented on the Civil War moving panorama  Andrew's Raid or the Great Locomotive Chase.  His presentation inspired me to look into Civil War moving panoramas a bit more and I discovered that there are five that have survived!

Click here to see this new webpage.



There is lots happening in the crankie world right now.  Maybe it's because so many of us have been spending so much time at home.  I have heard more than one artist say that it's time to make that crankie they have always wanted to make.  Here are just a few examples with more to come. Stay tuned!

From the US, Shadow Bird by Maisie O'Brien and Georgia Beatty
From Philadelphia, PA, shadow puppeteer Maisie O'Brien collaborated with Baltimore, MD fiddler Georgia Beatty. The combination of the shadow puppet bird with the Hardanger fiddle is magical. Check out their websites, and
From England, The Patchwork Quilt by Bronia Evers
Bronia Evers is a storyteller, designer, maker and puppeteer based in London, UK. Her work combines spoken word storytelling with hand crafted performing objects. Bronia playfully adapted The Patchwork Quilt by children’s author, Joan Aiken. Visit Bronia's website for more inspiration!
From Wales, The Story of Veti Grwca by Peter Stevenson
Master storyteller, folklorist, author and musician, Peter Stevenson, tells the story of Beti Grwca, a mischievous old lady who made love potions. Visit his website


Cardboard box crankie materials: box, paper, tape, markers, pencils or wooden dowels for spindles, clothes pins for cranks, a cutting tool to cut a viewing window. GO!

MAKE A CRANKIE This section is for those setting out to make their first crankie.  It's a compilation of pictures and tips from various artists. YOU CAN DO THIS!


from top left going clockwise: Anna & Elizabeth, Katherine Fahey, Peter Schumann, Dmitri Carter.

MAKE A CRANKIE This section is for those setting out to make their first crankie.  It's a compilation of pictures and tips from various artists. YOU CAN DO THIS!


This is my copy. Coffee stained + 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!

See Erkki's collection of 19th century toy and souvenir moving panoramas.