The Crankie Factory

What's a Crankie?

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

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 I am posting a lot on Instagram under the clever name of SueTruman1050.


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 and it includes special effects!  Check out this new webpage.

Check out the new page on Train Window Panoramas. Click on the link to the left.

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




Thank you to Errki Hutamo, Russell Potter, Suzanne Wray, Jeffrey RugglesPeter Morelli David Brill and ALL who has shared their research with me. 

Meg Chittenden

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
  • illuminating the box


This is the attic of Mckenzie Elizabeth Ditter's dollhouse crankie. To watch the video, click on the DOLLHOUSE CRANKIE PAGE to the left.

WATCH A CRANKIE - Over 100 videos of crankies from artists around the world.  Many thanks for sharing your wonderful work!

Illusions in Motion was rated "essential" by the American Library Association.

Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles the book by Professor Erkki Huhtamo.  If you are interested in learning about the history of moving panoramas THIS IS IT!  Check out Erkki's website

WATCH ERKKI'S NEW VIDEO  about magic lanterns, the first in a series.



Louis Leger testing one of his crankie kits.

BUY A CRANKIE KIT!  My good friend and fellow crankster Louis Leger has sold over 100 Crankie kits to artists all over the world.

UPDATE: 4/22/18 - Friends: Louis is still making and selling crankie kits. He closed his Etsy shop and is going to sell the crankie kits through a different venue. This should take a couple weeks. If you have questions in the meantime, feel free to send an email to me at stepdancesue at gmail dot com. - Thank you!

Just as an aside, I am not receiving any funds, I just want folks to have a crankie box!



Pure magic from Anna and Elizabeth ( who have been an inspiration to crankie artists worldwide. This is one of their early crankies, still one of my favorites. Visit their website to find out about their new recording THE INVISIBLE COMES TO US. You can't go wrong!