Miniature moving panoramas (ca. 1868-1878)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Erin Berger, September 2019
Graphics Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Miniature moving panoramas
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: ca. 1868-1878
Extent: 1 box
This collection consists of three miniature moving panoramas from ca. 1868 to 1878. These include two educational toy panoramas by Milton Bradley, "The Historiscope: A Panorama & History of America" and "The Myriopticon: A Historical Panorama of the Rebellion." Also included is a dual scrolling lithograph entitled "Excursion Views of Narragansett Bay and Block Island" by the Excursion View Co.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1998, 2003. P-1587.1, P-2155.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Preferred Citation

Miniature Moving Panoramas, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The first permanent panorama display with a purpose-built structure was created in London, England by Robert Barker in 1793. Although this form of panoramic painting has a much longer history, dating back to ancient Rome, the term was not coined by Barker until 1791. These permanent panorama buildings consisted of a cylindrical structure with an opening in the center to allow natural light in. The painted panorama was placed on the interior wall with the upper and lower margins hidden.

The moving panorama was a similar form that appeared in the early 19th century. A large canvas roll with a series of painted images would be viewed in a narrative sequence as the canvas was scrolled. These large-scale moving panoramas were portable to some extent, and often presented in auditoriums accompanied by narration, music, sound effects, and theatrical lighting. The combined effect transported the viewer to a place or time they otherwise would never have known or visited.

Panorama spectacles were an affordable medium of art which could be enjoyed by the average person and acted as a link between fine arts and mass culture. During the nineteenth century they could be found throughout Europe and America. Popular themes included cityscapes, historic events, travel, and battles. Few examples have survived to the present.

The panorama concept was applied to other mediums that grew ever more readily available and easily digestible; such as theater performances, souvenirs, games, and toys. Panoramas were no longer a purely public affair, and could be brought into the home for a more intimate experience.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of three miniature moving panoramas from ca. 1868 to 1878.

The Historiscope: A Panorama & History of America. Springfield, Mass.: Milton Bradley & Co., ca. 1868. Comprised of a scrolled hand-colored lithographed panorama on rollers, housed in a cardboard box with window for viewing. The viewing box measures 22 x 14 x 6 cm and the lithograph measures 11cm in height. The viewing window simulates a proscenium with a stage, footlights, and balconies. The subject of the lithograph is the history of America from Columbus through the end of the Revolutionary War. It contains 25 scenes of both iconic moments in early American history and generic images; e.g., Pocahontas saving John Smith's life, Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts, trading with Native Americans, George Washington at Valley Forge, and the surrender of Cornwallis's army at Yorktown. Many of these scenes are based on paintings, prints or photographs that were well known. An example is the scene of the landing of Columbus based off of John Vanderlyn's painting, Landing of Columbus (1846), which also appeared on a15-cent stamp in 1869. The knobs on top used to move the lithograph are not original.

The Myriopticon: A Historical Panorama of the Rebellion. Springfield, Mass.: Milton Bradley & Co., ca. 1868. Similar to the Historiscope except in terms of subject matter and artwork. The Myriopticon picks up where Historiscope left off. It contains 22 scenes representing the Civil War, many of which originate from Harper's Weekly and other magazines or newspapers. The panorama shows various battles and camp scenes; e.g., the battle of Fort Sumter, Winslow Homer's The Army of the Potomac-A Sharpshooter (1862), the battle between ironclads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, and the burning of Richmond. The knobs on top used to move the lithograph are not original.

Both the Historiscope and Myriopticon were accompanied by a lecture booklet, promotional broadside, and admission tickets (none extant in this collection). They were marketed toward young children around the ages of 7 to 12. To create a more immersive theatrical experience it was suggested to exhibit the panorama in a dark room, backlit with a candle. Once the provided script had been exhausted, children were encouraged to create their own narrative to pair with the panoramas. Milton Bradley's intent when creating these moving panoramas was to serve not only as optical toys, but as interactive visual lessons. They fit into his larger idea of mass-producing aesthetic educational devices.

Excursion Views of Narragansett Bay and Block Island. Providence, RI: Excursion View Co., ca. 1878. Comprised of two chromolithographed panoramas on rollers housed in a wood viewing box with glass panes on two sides. On the bottom is a paper map which lists each point, in order, shown in the panorama. The viewing box measures 34 x 14.5 x 13 cm and the lithographs measure 9.5 cm in height. The first lithograph shows scenes from the eastern shore of Narragansett Bay starting at Fox Point and ending at Brenton's Reef. The second lithograph shows scenes of Block Island, Conanicut Island, and the western shore ending at Sassafras Point. The panoramas also include text marking notable locations and structures. These moving panoramas were created due to the popularity of steamboat excursion tours from Providence (Rhode Island) to Block Island and back. This miniature panorama was likely an expensive souvenir; a way to simulate or relive the experience for the viewers. The knobs on top used to move the lithograph are not original.

Subject Terms

  • Prints shelf.
Visual Subjects:
  • Block Island (R.I.: Island)--Pictorial works.
  • Narragansett Bay (R.I.)--Pictorial works.
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Pictorial works.
  • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Pictorial works.
  • Excursion View Co.
  • Milton Bradley & Co.
Genre Terms:
  • Lithographs.
  • Panoramic views.

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Box   1 [Graphics Div Realia]  
Miniature moving panoramas [series]
Excursion Views of Narragansett Bay and Block Island
The Historiscope: A Panorama & History of America
The Myriopticon: A Historical Panorama of the Rebellion

Additional Descriptive Data


Huhtamo, Erkki. Illusions in Motion. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2013.

Peterson, Jennifer Lynn. "The Historiscope and the Milton Bradley Company: Art and Commerce in Nineteenth-Century Aesthetic Education." Getty Research Journal 2014, no. 6 (2014): 174-184.