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


A SPECTACLE IN MOTION: THE GRAND PANORAMA OF A WHALING VOYAGE 'ROUND THE WORLD - July 14th to Oct. 8th, 2018, The Kilburn Mill, New Bedford, MA.  The original moving panorama, painted in 1848, will be exhibited. At 1,275 feet in length, it's the largest painting in the U.S. More details here.

There are only 20 or so of the large 19th century moving panoramas that have survived and they are rarely exhibited.  This is a HUGE DEAL not only among moving panorama fans but in the art world in general.   Go see it! 

Also, visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum for all kinds of information and artifacts related to the moving panorama.

Stop by and make a crankie, it's free and takes around 30 minutes, while supplies last!

CRANKIE WORKSHOP - Sat. Aug. 18, 2018, 11:00-2:00 at the Killburn Mill, New Bedford, MA.  I will be giving a workshop in celebration of the New Bedford Whaling Museum's Exhibition of their 19th Century Moving Panorama, recently restored, The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage 'Round the World. Stop by, make a crankie and also see the moving panorama, exhibited in the same building.

This is a scene from Francis Whitmore's Wife. Katherine pioneered the use of Tyvek in making the crankie scroll.

Katherine Fahey in Portland, OR - Sunday July 22nd, 2018. 7:30-9:00 PM at Reed College. Lecture + Performance. She has been one of the main crankie inspirations since 2010. Here is the link with more information. Please spread the word and thank you!

This is one of the gigantic spools from the MAREORAMA moving panorama. Read more at this new page MOVING PANORAMAS BY WATER. 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 and many others who have 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 and it includes special effects!  Check out this new webpage.

The Midnight Sea, a first crankie by Sarah Gowan and Bill Quern.

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

Sarah Gowen and Bill Quern recently made their first crankie. Sarah wrote about the trials and tribulations in this nice article.  View the crankie here.

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