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.


Early "How To" Articles - As a crankie artist, I LOVE to read the old "how to" articles, usually written for children but very applicable to the crankie artist today. Typical for this time, the information is aimed for boys, glad we are evolving.

How to Make a Moving Panorama Show - 1910 from the Children's Encyclopedia

A (Moving) Panorama - 1930, excerpt from The Boy Showman

Moving Picture Toy for Children from The Boy Mechanic

The recreation of the 1855 moving panorama premiered in Los Angeles in 2010.

REVISED WEB PAGETHE GRAND MOVING MIRROR OF CALIFORNIA was performed by L.E. Emerson in 1855.  The panorama painting did not survive but the narration and the diary of the moving panorama showman did.  A talented team, led by Sara Velas of the Velaslavasay Panorama recreated the moving panorama along with accompanying broadsides, maps, souvenirs, displays and more.  Read about it here.

Panoramania, a book written by Ralph Hyde.

THE HISTORY SECTION! 24 pages of mostly 19th century moving panoramas. I have been busy updating webpage that I created in 2012 and 2013. 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!

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 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.


Part of the IPC conference will be held in the Atlanta Cyclorama. It's a new building especially made to hold this enormous 19th Century panorama. The building opens on Feb. 22nd, 2019.

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.

Here's a crankie from Ket Conway and team from Santa Cruz, CA. Enjoy!
Note to self.