The Crankie Factory

What's a Crankie?

Sue Truman in the cabin. Original photo by Doug Plummer. Then digitized!

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 I am posting a lot on Instagram under the clever name of SueTruman1050.

NOTTHWEST FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL -CRANKIE SHOWCASE - Saturday, May 26th, 2018. Get there early to get a seat. Lots of different cranksters.At Seattle Center.


19th Century special effects In the mirage scene, the city magically appears when the scroll is backlit with a candle!

LONDON TO HONG KONG IN TWO HOURS - A 19th Century parlor panorama from England survives! Special thanks to artist David Brill (whose great, great grandfather and his son, painted the moving panorama in 1860) for giving permission to use these images.  The scroll is painted on paper with watercolor and backed with cloth.  It's 14" high and 173 feet and it includes special effects!  Check out this new webpage.

Check out the new page on Train Window Panoramas. Click on the link to the left.

THE HISTORY SECTION! 22 pages of mostly 19th century moving panoramas. 




Thank you to Errki Hutamo, Russell Potter, Suzanne Wray, Jeffrey RugglesPeter Morelli David Brill 

Sara Velas and ALL who has shared their research with me. 

Meg Chittenden

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:

  • how to make a crankie box
  • material choices for the scroll
  • designing the crankie scroll
  • illuminating the box


This is the attic of Mckenzie Elizabeth Ditter's dollhouse crankie. To watch the video, click on the DOLLHOUSE CRANKIE PAGE to the left.

WATCH A CRANKIE - Over 100 videos of crankies from artists around the world.  Many thanks for sharing your wonderful work!

Illusions in Motion was rated "essential" by the American Library Association.

Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles the book by Professor Erkki Huhtamo.  If you are interested in learning about the history of moving panoramas THIS IS IT!  Check out Erkki's website



Late 18th century traveling showman's "crankie." You can see the back pack like straps on one side of the box. On the other side, you can see the scroll. Photo from the book "Illusions in Motion."

Watch Erkki's Huhtamo's new video below, the 2nd in a series, which features "peep media" of the 18th and 19th century. Three and a half minutes into the film you will see a very unusual piece - a traveling showman's, hand-cranked scrolling, peep show of landscape scenery. All the items in the film are from his extensive collection of magic lanterns, moving panoramas and other cool things.

Check out this new webpage with more of his collection.