J. Walter Bird (top) (l-r) Walter Franklin Prince, Margery, Houdini
Founded in 1885 to research spiritism and psychic phenomena, by 1922 the ASPR was the leading orgainization investigating psychic phenomena.
In 1922, Scientific American magazine offered a cash prize of $2,500 for the first psychic to produce a "visible psychic manifestation". Of course, numerous "mediums" were tested, with none winning the award. In 1924, Boston spiritualist Mina Crandon, working professionally as "Margery", accepted the challenge to be tested. The ASPR conducted the tests, and Harry Houdini was a member of the investigating committee.
Over a year of testing, Margery was able to convince some members of the committee, including J. Walter Bird. Other members, including Houdini and Walter Franklin Prince, were adamant that she was a fake. On February 11, 1925, the committee decided that Margery had failed to produce legitimate evidence of spirit phenomena.
This decision set off a firestorm of controversy. The ASPR split into two factions in disagreement over Margery's genuineness, with Walter Franklin Price leaving the group in May 1925 to start a new organization called the Boston Society for Psychic Research. The original ASPR continued to function; its position was that Margery was genuine. Of course, Houdini had Margery in his sights. He published a booklet exposing her methods, he duplicated her techniques as part of his stage shows for the rest of his life. It was a bitter rivalry.
This envelope, dated February 19, 1925, was sent from Walter Franklin Prince and the ASPR in New York, no doubt discussing the Margery verdict.