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 SueTruman1050.

Moon Chair crankie at the Crankie Cabaret!

Crankie Cabaret 2018 - Lily Pad Puppet Theater, November 8th -11th, 2018 in Ithaca, NY. More information here.

This sweet tin has a moving panorama in the lid! Image from The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.

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


Thank you to Erkki Hutamo, Russell Potter, Suzanne Wray, Jeffrey Ruggles, Peter Morelli, Sara Velas,  Michelle Grandshaw and all who have graciously shared their research with me.

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 long and includes special effects!

Look at this crankie box made by puppeteer Alison Clark of Scotland!

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  and

illuminating the box.

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!

Watch Julie Vallimont’s new crankie below!

Singing, piano and artwork by Julie Vallimont. Song composed by Joe Raposo.
Ha, ha. This is my copy. Coffee stains, highlighted, dog-eared, tagged and worn = 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.