Stateline Story

Youth's Capitol Quest Nets Mixed Results

  • June 17, 2005
  • By Nick Timiraos

Send a dollar and a stamp to America's governors asking for picture postcards of their state capitols and you might be surprised by what you'll receive - if you receive anything at all.

Hoping to complete an unfinished state capitol postcard collection that he'd inherited from his grandmother, high school student David Wheatley sent handwritten letters to 19 governors in January requesting a postcard of their capitol building.

Wheatley, who enclosed a stamp and a dollar with each request, said he handwrote the letters because he hoped that would appear "more sentimental" and provide a greater yield.

The office of Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell (D) was the first to respond to the New York youth's request. In lieu of a postcard of Harrisburg's statehouse, it sent a postcard of the state's coat of arms and a photograph of the Capitol building. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R) also informed Wheatley there was no postcard of the capitol in Montgomery and enclosed two other postcards.

Both Rendell and Riley returned Wheatley's stamps and dollars.

Over the next three months, 11 more governors responded. Four Republican governors kept the dollar and used the stamp while six Democratic governors returned the money and postage:

  • Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) , Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) , Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri (R) and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) sent Wheatley the postcard and kept the dollar and stamp.
  • Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Miner (D) , Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) , Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry (D) , Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) , West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) , Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) and New Jersey's chamber of commerce sent the postcard and returned the dollar and, except for Louisiana, the stamp.
  • Carcieri, Kulongoski and Riley also included tourism info on their states.
  • Seven postcards came back with the governor's reprinted signature, and six states included a letter from or a picture of their governor.

By late spring, Wheatley, the son of former NBC Nightly News executive producer Bill Wheatley, still hadn't heard from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) , Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R), New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) , Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) or Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D).

So Wheatley enlisted friends and family to track down postcards from the remaining states and by June 1 was shy of only two capitols, Frankfort, Ky., and Austin, Texas.

When contacted by Stateline.org, a spokesman for Kentucky Gov. Fletcher said he would send an informational packet about Kentucky and a bumper sticker and return his dollar bill. While the office had logged Wheatley's request, spokesman Mike Goins said, no action had been taken because the governor's office does not, as a matter of policy, send postcards.

Wheatley said he was surprised not by the states that didn't respond, but by the way certain ones did.

"I expected maybe just to get the postcard. But to get the dollar back, the letters from the governors, the tourism info - I didn't expect to get all of that," he said, adding that he thought it was "ironic" that some states didn't keep postcards of their capitols.

Even though Wheatley sent his request for a postcard of West Virginia's Charleston statehouse to then-Gov. Bob Wise (D), the governor's office responded to the letter after the state's Jan. 17 inaugural. Without missing a beat, Wheatley received his signed postcard from the new governor, Joe Manchin III.