In 1956, Hugh Everett, then a PhD student at Princeton, proposed his "relative state" formulation of quantum mechanics. John Wheeler, who was Everett's advisor, recognized the originality and importance of such a proposal, but he denied that its non-conventional approach to measurement questioned the orthodox view. Indeed, Wheeler made serious efforts to obtain the blessing of Niels Bohr for Everett's ideas. These efforts gave rise to a lively debate with the Copenhagen group, the existence and content of which have been only recently disclosed by the discovery of unpublished documents. The analysis of such documents opens a window on the conceptual background of Everett's proposal, and illuminates at the same time some crucial aspects of the Copenhagen view of the measurement problem. Also, it provides an original insight into the interplay between philosophical and social factors which underlay the postwar controversies on the interpretation of quantum mechanics.