Moving Panorama History & Related Art Forms

Find out about the history of this forgotten art form.  In the 19th Century, they were called moving panoramas as well as many other names. This is a collection of moving panoramas and related hand-cranked, scrolling art forms.   Big and small, from all over the world. Have fun exploring!


FIRST I want to thank the many historians for their work and their willingness to share their information.  Without them, there would be no history section!  Erkki Hutamo, Russell Potter, Suzanne WrayRalph HydePeter Morelli, Sara VelasJeffrey Rugglesand Dmitri Carter. 


Moving Panoramas: Small, Medium and Enormous!

An engraving from Scientific American, 1848, of John Banvard's moving panorama apparatus.

In the 19th Century, moving panoramas ranged in size from very small to enormous! 

MINIATURE: The very small ones, with scrolls a few inches high,  might have been created as a child's toy such as an Ombro Cinema.  Or, small moving panoramas were given as souvenirs at large moving panorama performances. Look at the collection of Erkki Huhtamo.

"CRANKIE-SIZED" There were mid-sized moving panoramas, roughly the size as many of the crankies of today, having scrolls around 18 inches high.  Those were sometimes called "parlor panoramas" and were used for smaller performances in the home or on the street. You will find examples of these moving panoramas at these pages:Panorama of a Whaling Voyage  Carmontelle's Landscape Transparencies 

London to Hong Kong in Two Hours,

From London to Paris

Pyasetsky's Great Siberian Railway Moving Panorama


ENORMOUS! Finally, there were the large moving panoramas, big enough to fill a whole stage. The scrolls were 8 or more feet high and hundreds or over a thousand feet long. They were painted on canvas or muslin in the 19th Century.  Only 20 or so of these large scrolls have survived to this day. The surviving scrolls are much too fragile to crank, but some brave souls have recreated the large moving panoramas so that we can experience the magic and awe of a huge canvas being hand-cranked.  You will find examples on these pages:  The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim's Progress,  The Grand Moving Mirror of California and the Moving Panoramas of the Mississippi River.

Purrington and Russell's Whaling Voyage Around the World (this page is a work in progress, coming soon!)


Moving Panorama Showman

Henry "Box" Brown

Learn about three moving panorama showman:  John Banvard, Henry "Box" Brown and "Dr. L.E. Emerson.

Historian Ralph Hyde (1939 - 2015) created a comprehensive (over 500 pages long) list of moving panorama showman and women from around the world The Biographical Dictionary of English Panoramists. It was still a work in progress when Ralph died in June of 2015.  Ralph's daughter Jeanette and his estate donated the manuscript to the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in London. You can link to a PDF of it here.

Ralph’s daughter Jeannette and his estate for donating Ralph’s comprehensive but unpublished work The Biographical Dictionary of English Panoramists to The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum. - See more at:
The Biographical Dictionary of English Panoramists - See more at:
The Biographical Dictionary of English Panoramists - See more at:

Polar Panoramas

Image courtesy of Russell Potter

This page is a collection of all things polar and panoramic: from 19th Century Arctic panoramas and modern day interpretations to  moving panoramas and stationary panoramas. Read about it here.

Moving Panoramas from a Train Window

Still working on this page, but take a look!


Thank you to independent researcher Suzanne Wray for helping me with this bibliography.

International Panorama Council

The International Panorama Council is a group committed to supporting the heritage and conservation of 19th and early 20th century panoramas (both stationay and moving panoramas). This organization also supports awareness of current art forms (such as crankies)!

Visit their website  It provides a searchable database of historic panoramas plus you can find out what's happening in the international community.

Follow them on Facebook