The Crankie Factory

We had a rehearsal last night for the CRANKIE FEST @ THE NW FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL. Sat. May 28th at 2:00 at Seattle Center. More information below.

What's a Crankie?

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

DOLLHOUSE Crankie by McKenzie Elizabeth Ditter and Matt Muirhead
Here we go, I went crazy over this. LOOK AT THE WINDOWS. Behind every window is a crankie scroll. This was created by McKenzie Elizabeth Ditter, Matt Muirhead, Laura Kalman and I had a small part in making the little crankies in the attic. Enjoy!

CRANKIE FEST NORTHWEST! at the Norwest Folklife Festival, Sat. May 28th, 2016, 2:00-2:45. Performers, Kelsey Nelson, Squirrel Butter (Charmain Slaven and Charilie Beck) Melanie Brauner with Kevin Auld and PODORYTHMIE (Sue Truman, Pascale Lelong, Prairie Wolfe, Cil Pierce and Julia Derby).  Get there early, it always fills up!

The scroll contains gold foil and sequins that would have shimmered as it glided along.

Scenes from the Life of Christ -  A 525 foot, 19th century moving panorama. It is believed to be painted by Marcus Mote, a self-taught artist.  It is housed at the Krannart Art Museum at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana. Molly Briggs is writing her dissertation on panoramic media and was recently involved in a partial "unrolling" of the canvas along with media archeologists Erkki Hutamo and Machiko Kusahara. Read more about it here. 

WATCH A CRANKIE - This section of the website contains videos from crankie artists around the world.  The newest one comes from vocalist and Waldorf teacher Meg Chittenden from Blue Hill, Maine.  Images from The Giant Turnip, a children's story. 

I believe this is papercut black images glued to culinary parchment paper and a hole was cut in the scroll and then patched with white paper for the moon. This is crankie magic!   Watch it HERE and learn more about Meg at

An Exhibitor's Diary - 1855  A most remarkable document. This is the diary of a moving panorama showman who exhibited the Moving Panorama of California in New Hampshire and Maine from September to November 1855.  The moving panorama was transported by a horse drawn wagon.  This document comes from the collection of The Maine Historical Society via the Saco Museum and Peter Morelli.  Heartfelt thanks to all for making this available.

In Memoriam: Ralph Hyde 1939-2015 - He was one of the world's formost authorities on moving panoramas as well as stationary panoramas, maps, peep shows and other art forms of the past. The picture to the right shows Ralph in 1984 in London.   This obituary was written by Erkki Huhtamo, a long time friend and colleague, who expressed the loss  perfectly when he said "There is no one to take his place; personalities like Ralph simple do not appear any longer."

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.

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 - From the St. Louis Art Museum, painted by John J. Egan, Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley, c.1850. Separate panels of this 1850s moving panorama are on display at the St. Louis Art Museum. The first  link is a time lapse video of a crew setting up one scene of the moving panorama.  Watch a video of the whole moving panorama here.

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:

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  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.

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!  Check out Erkki's website



BUY A CRANKIE KIT! I often get questions about where one can buy a wooden crankie box.  I asked my good friend and fellow crankie performer Louis Leger, (retired elementary teacher, now full time Grampa)  if he would consider making wooden boxes to sell and he said "yes"!


THE KITS ARE SELLING! If you do not see a crankie kit on the Etsy site, that means they are temporarily sold out. Just send a message to Louis at the "Contact Store Owner" button and let him know and he will get some more made.  Yeah!!!

Watch a video of Louis assembling a box here.

There is more information about the kits here. Just as an aside, I am not receiving any funds, I just want folks to be able to have a box to make crankies!! Yay!!