The Crankie Factory

American Indian Movement history cranky created by LEUT/HOBT Phillips Project. Madeline Helling/ Gustavo Boada
Musical Crankie - by Matt Muirhead
From Baltimore, Matt Muirhead is pushing this art form forward, incorporating mbira and other handmade instruments into the box. Watch!

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


John Bell and Trudi Cohen of Great Small Works performing "Ode to Common Things" at the opening of "Banners and Cranks: Paintings and Scrolls in Performance, Feb. 23rd, 2017. Banners painted by Peter Schumann of the Bread and Puppet Theater are hanging in the background.

BANNERS AND CRANKS: PAINTINGS AND SCROLLS IN PERFORMANCE - The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present the grand opening of its new exhibition Banners and Cranks: Paintings and Scrolls in Performance. The exhibit opens Thursday, February 23, 2017 and runs through June 19th.

Wednesday, April 12 at 7:00 p.m. Banners and Cranks curator Clare Dolan, and Puerto-Rico-based puppeteer, author, and visual artist Dave Buchen talk about the old-and-new international painting and performance medium they have nurtured since the first Banners and Cranks festival in 2010.

In connection with the exhibition, a Banners and Cranks Mini-Festival will present cranky and cantastoria performances created by puppeteers, musicians, and artists from throughout the Northeast on Friday and Saturday, April 14-15.More information HERE.

Last but not least, some of my miniature crankies are featured in the exhbit. Totally honored!

1849 broadside. from Wikimedia

WHALING VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD A new article about the New Bedford Whaling Museum's 19th Century moving panorama from Hyperallergenic Conserving America's Longest Painting, a 19th-Century Whaling Panorama. 

Read the article here.

Visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum's website here.  Support the cause if you can!

CRANKIE SHOW with PODORYTHMIE @ Festival du Bois in Coquitlam, British Columbia.  We will be there the whole weekend (March 3,4 and 5, 2017)  with various performances.  Here is the SCHEDULE. The crankie show is Sat. March 4th, 3:30-4:15.  We will be joined by the fabulous Dejah Leger.  Woohoo! Can't wait!

Georama: An American Panorama Told on 3 Miles of Canvas is a musical about the life and times of 19th-Century moving panorama showman John Banvard.  The musical will playing in NYC July 10th-Aug. 6th, 2017.   For more information, click on this link.

I flew from Seattle to St. Louis in January, 2015, just to see this musical.  It was fabulous.  To learn more about the musical and John Banvard, click on this link.

Henry Box Brown was one of the most amazing moving panorama showman of the 19th century. Read about this incredible story in the history section!

THE HISTORY SECTION! 17 pages of mostly 19th century moving panoramas.  I am working on some new pages, not finished but feel free to take a peek! 






 Thank you to Errki Hutamo, Russell Potter, Suzanne Wray, Jeffrey Ruggles, Peter Morelli and everyone who has shared their research with me. 

The kits are selling!

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"!


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!!


ORA, music by Lisa Hannigan, artwork by Maeve Clancy.

WATCH A CRANKIE - This section of the website contains videos from crankie artists around the world.  The newest one  ORA - comes from artist Maeve Clancy who lives in the West of Ireland. Lisa Hannigan provides the beautiful song.

Maeve works primarily with paper, cutting intricate images and sculptures from paper.  WATCH the video HERE.

Visit her website


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.

This is Meg Chittenden.

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:

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


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!

Illusions in Motion is richly illustrated with photos from Erkki's collection.

Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles the book by 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



Barn Quilt Trail crankie - My Cape Breton Home
I made this crankie a couple years ago and finally had the opportunity to film it. Halifax fiddle Troy MacGillivary and Cape Breton fidder Wendy MacIsaac are playing the beautiful tune written by Jerry Holland, My Cape Breton Home. Machine cut and hand cut Tyvek images glued to white Tyvek along with tissue paper and some watercoloring.
I made this crankie a couple years ago as well and finally had an opportunity to film it. Stacey Gierman is singing the two Scottish Gaelic lullabies which come from the singing of Julie Fowlis. Machine cut and hand-cut black Tyvek images glued to a white Tyvek scroll with some tissue paper added for color. Inspired by the crankies of Katherine Fahey