Cornelius has 10,000 residents, six letter carriers and, as Postmaster Kerry Jeffrey learned last fall, no city postcard.

CORNELIUS — When the postcards started rolling in, the good people at the Cornelius P.O. were confused.

Hundreds of cards arrived — including four Elvises, three Taj Mahals — the building, not the musician — and one Playboy bunny.

Why, postal workers wondered, were all these people writing to the city's new postmaster? Why Cornelius? Why postcards?

Cornelius has 10,000 residents, six letter carriers and, as Postmaster Kerry Jeffrey learned last fall, no city postcard.

A postcard is a story. It can be a portrait of a city's best self, all its monuments lined up under a perfect sunset. Without one, Cornelius was missing its chance to tell its story, Jeffrey thought.

So Jeffrey, a 42-year-old who commutes from Portland, created one. Then, using a blog (because, after all, the Post can't do everything), he sent a message to the world:

Send Cornelius a postcard. We'll send you one back.

"We'll get 20," he thought. "Maybe 30."

Nearly 500 people sent cards. One even arrived from the deserted island of Bouvetoya in the South Atlantic.

What were they imagining, these note-senders, when they mailed their missives to Cornelius? Were they intrigued by this town west of Hillsboro, land of hazelnuts and roads winding around barns?

"One day, I'd like to visit your town or island," a 10-year-old from the Mariana Islands wrote.

For those who might never make it, Cornelius' first postcard offers a glimpse. There's a steeple, a corner store and a sign welcoming visitors to Oregon's "family town."

Jeffrey, who became postmaster in August, created the card using his cell phone camera and Photoshop. He paid to print — and mail — the cards himself. All in all, it's a "relatively cheap way" to have fun, he said, and to tell people about Cornelius.

A regulation postcard is so small — only 4 by 6 inches. But you can fit a whole history there. Like this, the story of the late John Korinek sent by his son on a card from Portland: Korinek, too, was a mailman and spent his nights salvaging old stained glass windows from churches. He died last year, but his life, at least the way his adoring son recalls it, rests written in blue ink on a tiny rectangle in Jeffrey's exhibit.

Other postcards hold other histories: tales from Indonesia, an adult's recollections of her days as a teenage misfit.

As the stories poured in, Jeffrey, noting the magnitude, decided to showcase them. With his wife, he created a display using paper clips and hung the cards from the walls of the city's lone post office.

People from Corvallis and Centralia, Wash., got word and drove in to see the exhibit, which opened Jan. 11. Most of the locals just stood in line, waiting to send their packages to wherever. The world hung from linked paper clips as customers shuffled through, never looking up.

"And that's OK," Jeffrey wrote on his blog. "I know our demographic pretty well by now. I know that to a certain percentage of the people this will have no impact whatsoever."

After a week, Louis Nelson, a 28-year Post veteran who works as a window clerk, said he told Jeffrey that he's too introverted for all these out-of-town visitors to be showing up, ready to talk. But, he admitted, the exhibit has grown on him. He pointed to a card near the front counter. It was a subtle blue painting.

"That's my favorite one," he said. "It's really pretty. A woman sent it all the way from Greece."