The Crankie Factory

What's a Crankie?

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

Welcome! I am a fiddler, guitarist, stepdancer and crankie artist living in Seattle. 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 and 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 today by artists in the US and beyond).

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.

What's New?

A souvenir card given to ladies at McGill's Mirror of Ireland performance in the 1870s. The Cove of Cork, image from the Library of Congress collection.

NEW WEBPAGE - HIBERNICONS: A Moving Panoramic Trip Through Ireland. Hibernicons featured a moving panorama scroll with scenes of Ireland plus narrations, music, stepdance, song and comedy skits.  They were performed from Civil War times to World War I.  Read about them here.

I created this crankie as a tribute to Hibernicons and piper Patsy Touhey who plays three reels on this 78: Drowsy Maggie, Scotch Mary and The Flogging. The crankie scroll contains machine cut and hand cut Tyvek images and torn tissue paper glued to a white Tyvek scroll. Thank you to Richard Twomey for use of the 78 recording and Michael Twomey for filming. Nov. 2017.
Panoramania, a book written by Ralph Hyde.

THE HISTORY SECTION   24  pages of mostly 19th century moving panoramas. Thank you to Erkki Hutamo, Russell Potter, Suzanne Wray, Jeffrey Ruggles, Peter Morelli, Sara Velas,  Michelle Grandshaw, Nick Whitmer and all who have graciously shared their research with me.

NEW WEBPAGE - Make a shadow puppet. Shadow puppetry can be a nice addition to the crankie, especially if it contains action scenes.

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:

Singing, piano and artwork by Julie Vallimont. Song composed by Joe Raposo.

WATCH A CRANKIE - Over 100 videos of crankies from artists around the world.  Big crankies, miniature crankies, crankies made by children, crankies with puppetry, unusual crankie boxes and more  Thank you Cranksters for sharing your wonderful work!

Singing, piano and artwork by Julie Vallimont. Song composed by Joe Raposo.
Ha, ha. This is my copy. Coffee stained, highlighted, 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!

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

The International Panorama Council Conference to be held at the Atlanta Cyclorama, Sept. 2019

The Atlanta Cyclorama was painted by Milwaukee artists in the 1880s. The artists are on a scaffold because the painting is 49 feet tall! Whoa.

THE INTERNATIONAL PANORAMA COUNCIL - The 28th annual conference will be held Sept. 26-27, 2019.  Find out more here.  Consider becoming a member!

The conference will be at the Atlanta History Center, at the new Atlanta Cyclorama.