The Crankie Factory

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. You can do it!

Sue Truman

Created Sept. 3rd, 2012

Find The Crankie Factory on FacebookYou Tube and you can follow me on Twitter at SueTruman1

The Ballad of Holland House is an award-winning film by Lynn Tomlinson who has used a clay painting technique to make these beautiful images.  The music is provided by the amazing Anna and Elizabeth (see below).  The result is extraordinary.  Click on the link above to watch the four minute film.

"Like" the facebook page for the film here.

Visit Lynn's website here.

Lynn plans to make her first crankie in the not-so-distant future.  Can't wait!!

Anna and Elizabeth are on tour!   They are touring throughout  the US, Canada and Europe, spreading magic along the way.  Check out their schedule here !

Watch their crankies here.

They are amoung the very best. Move mountains if you have to, but go see them!



Three International Organizations  working hard to preserve and promote these  art forms: moving panoramas, magic lantern slide shows and puppetry.   Read about them on this new page:

The International Panorama Council

The Magic Lantern Society of the US and Canada

UNIMA  - promoting puppetry throuhout the world

These groups are worthy of your attention!

NW Folklife Festival 2015 - Dejah Leger, crankie artist.  A short little film about Dejah and the Folklife Fest coming up Memorial Day Weekend in the Seattle area. See more information below.

Northwest Folklife Festival 2015 - Memorial Day weekend.  CRANKIE FEST on Saturday, May 23rd, 2:00 to 3:00 @ Centerhouse Theatre. Performers: Charmaine Slaven,  Dejah Leger,  Gregory Johnson and Gaelic Crankie Show.  More details to follow. Get there early to get a seat!

The Painters' Panorama: Narrative, Art and Fairth in the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim's Progress. The book by Jessia Skwire Routhier, Kevin Avery and Thomas Hardiman Jr. is scheduled to be released in May 2015. I'm excited!  This is a great story of a 19th century moving panorama, thought to be lost.  Rediscovered and restored.  Read more about the panorama  here at The Crankie Factory's "Pilgrim's Progress" page or click on the link above to visit the Saco Museum's website.

Before the Crankie - Read about my recent Power Pointless talk at the Oly Old TIme Festival.  It was about  the history of moving panoramas (a new crankie). Enlarged pictures of 18th, 19th and early 20th century moving panoramas "inlaid" into a Tyvek scroll.

Soundweaving: Artist Converts Folk Embroidery Patterns Into Paper Scores for Music Boxes. Hungarian design student Zsanett Szirmay had transformed embroidery stitches into music.  Wow! 

Carmontelle's Landscape Transparencies - Louis de Carmontelle was an eighteenth-century French  painter and garden designer. He painted a series of panoramas on translucent paper that became a popular source of entertainment at royal court gatherings. These rolled-up transparencies (rouleaux transparents) were cranked through a backlit viewing box, and were accompanied by storytelling. Some of the scrolls have survived and are housed at The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  Watch a video of one of the "roll transparencies" filmed by The Getty Museum.  To learn more, check out the book Carmontelle's Landscape Transparencies by Laurence Chatel de Brancion.

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!

Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley - Separate panels of this 1850s moving panorama are on display at the St. Louis Museum of Art as part of the Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the West exhibit Feb. 22 - May 17th, 2015.   The first  link above is a time lapse video of a crew setting up one scene of the moving panorama.  It makes me wonder how the 19th century moving panorama showmen managed to transport these huge scrolls and set them up without the help of today's technology?

the exhibition travels to the Saint Louis Art Museum, on view from February 22–May 17, 2015. It closes in New York at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from June 15–September 20, 2015. - See more at:
After premiering at the Amon Carter, the exhibition travels to the Saint Louis Art Museum, on view from February 22–May 17, 2015. It closes in New York at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from June 15–September 20, 2015. - See more at:
After premiering at the Amon Carter, the exhibition travels to the Saint Louis Art Museum, on view from February 22–May 17, 2015. It closes in New York at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from June 15–September 20, 2015. - See more at:

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. It's still a work in progress but there is a lot of information there to get you started!

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.

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.

ON-LINE CRANKIE FEST - One new crankie added by musician and artist Pamela Wyn Shannon who lives in Wales. It's called Caravan Crankie Lullaby and it's her first crankie. Her website is Check it out!

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



Crankset is a WONDERFUL old time stringband from Portland, OR. The fiddler, Lisa Ornstein has been an inspiration to me for many years. If you are in the Portland area, check out their squaredances. You can't go wrong!