Dick Whitman


See also Don Draper.

Born approximately March 1926 in Illinois.

Dick Whitman was the child of Evangeline, a prostitute, who died at age 22, giving birth to Dick. He was raised by his father Archibald, and  Archie’s wife,  Abigail. Archie Whitman was a farmer, and a drunk. Their house did not have indoor plumbing. Dick witnessed his father’s death—he was kicked in the face by a horse. After his death, Abigail lost the farm.

Pregnant, widowed Abigail and young Dick moved into a brothel in Pennsylvania coal country run by Abigail’s sister Ernestine, and her companion, Mack Johnson. Dick’s half-brother Adam was born soon after. Abigail and “Uncle” Mack take up with each other, possibly after Ernestine’s death when Dick was 15.

by 1960, Abigail and Mack are both dead, Abigail of stomach cancer.

Dick played football in high school. He worked parking cars at a road house when he was 15.

Dick joined the army and served in Korea, where he switched dog tags with his commanding officer, Donald F. Draper, immediately after Draper died in an explosion.

Adam Whitman believed Dick to be dead until spring of 1960, when he spotted a story (with photo) about Don Draper in Advertising Age, and sought him out. Adam was working as a janitor at American Calculator in the Empire State Building, and lived in a single room occupancy (SRO), which he hoped was temporary. In October of 1960, Adam hung himself in the SRO.


  39 Responses to “Dick Whitman”

  1. The NvK script indicates that Dick/Don is 23 in 1950 (Korean War flashback), and 33 in 1960. This seems to be about the oldest he could be to have missed serving in WWII–even at the tail end of it. So, Don born in 1927?

  2. Okay, the Advertising Age supplement says that Dick/Don is 36, not 33. Would that be at the time of season 2 or season 1? 36 in 1960 makes him well old enough to have served in WWII–and for more than just the tail end of the War. Did he get some kind of farm deferment? Why was he then allowed to go to Korea? Wouldn't the same deferment be in effect?

  3. The Ad Age supplement is explicitly 1960. Roberta has been working on a post about this…

  4. I have?

    Oh, about the timing stuff… yeah, it's a clusterfuck.

    I thought you meant the Ad Age thing. 'Cause, not.

  5. If he was around 26 in the Korean War he would have been 18ish in '42 and 20ish around '44. 20 was the draft age during WWII. However, if the character was in college during WWII he could have had a deferment for certain degree programs, especially in '44/5. Since he was an officer in Korea he might well have been college-deferred for WWII. Or, alternatively, he might have been enlisted in WWII and that may be used as storyline in the 2nd season?

    • The draft age in World War II was 18. Wikipedia says Don Draper born in 1926. Other discussion lists say 1924. Either way he would have been draft age in World War II, in either 1942 or 1944. It would appear that the script writer/writers are too lazy to have done a bit of historical research.

      • Don was born in approximately 1926 because he states that he was 36 in 1962. The chronology is a problem, although I doubt laziness is the cause, given how meticulous this show is about historical accuracy in so many other areas.

        • In Season 1 Don/Dick was depicted as a younger man, about 29 years old, which would have made him 19 when he went to Korea. His brother Adam mentions being 8 years old when he saw Dick Whitman returning on the train in 1950—which would indicate that Archie Whitman died in 1941 or ’42, as Uncle Mack said in a flashback that Dick and Adam had the same father. Don has said that his father died when he was 10 years old, placing his birth year around 1931, and making him only three years older than Pete Campbell—which would explain the more pronounced rivalry between those two during Season 1. When Don visits his doctor at the beginning of Season 2—which takes place some 14 months after the end of Season 1—his age has been bumped up to 36, which throws off the entire chronology of his life as laid out in the previous season. This latter scenario has been adhered to ever since: remember, Don celebrated his 40th birthday at the beginning of this season. Also remember, though, that he told Megan his *actual* birthday was six months earlier. Since the b-day party was close to Memorial Day 1966, Dick Whitman’s 40th birthday would have therefore fallen in late 1965. So Dick Whitman was probably born in late 1925.

  6. He wasn't an office in Korea; I mean, the real Don Draper was an officer who was there because the Army was paying for his college. Dick Whitman was a private who volunteered "to get away."

  7. Well, i'm not clear on his *not* being an officer, unless i missed the part when that was stated in the series. I'm just outlining the real-world potentialities for the criteria presented. He(Whitman) might have been prior-service enlisted from the WWII-era, a career enlisted soldier, a junior officer, or a recent(Korea-era) enlistee from the perspective of possibilities(as long as the writer/s follow real rules and procedures in that era of military service). Unless it was specifically said that he was a recent inductee and a private soldier it leaves open these other possibilities for further developments in the series.

  8. Unless it was specifically said that he was a recent inductee and a private soldier

    It was.

  9. Right, Deborah. If I remember correctly, the real Don Draper even asked what ridiculous notion made Dick want to be there. I got the sense Dick Whitman hadn't had too much military service beyond basic training. When the real DD asks if he knows how to shoot a gun, Dick/Don's response is I can for what training I've had, or something like that. His whole demeanor suggested that he was a relatively new recruit with very limited knowledge of life in the army. Had he served prior to Korea, I think he would have had more weariness–he'd be more hardened toward military life, and had a better knowledge of protocol. It seemed like the real Don Draper had to tell him everything. Someone who'd been in the service prior to that wouldn't need that kind of instruction.

    If Dick/Don was of age during any part of WWII, I can't imagine him not taking that as an opportunity to get the heck out of dodge. That's what young men did then. If they could serve and they wanted to leave home, that's what they did. In my own family, there were several relatives who even lied about their ages because that was their ticket out of the South. What was Dick/Don's circumstance that made him different from the other young men of the era?

  10. My question exactly, Hullabaloo: where was Dick during WWII? As stated above he was more than old enough to serve, and the part about "wanting to get away" wasn't clear to me. Away from what? Or who? If not a soldier/sailor/Marine, was he maybe a crook or hood of some sort before Korea? As an adoptee he wouldn't have qualified for the Homestead Exemptiom from service during the bigger war(WWII).

    Therefore- he's got some "missing time" between say age 16(1940ish) and Korea(1950-3). If he stole Draper's ID he most likely never went to college at all. What did he do during the '40's?

    My other thought is that he *might* have been in the merchant marine, given his seeming worl-weariness. Because of his demeanor i assume he's well-travelled or at least had more living in his time than just farmwork. Rural farming is hard work but it hardly creates a complicated soul.

  11. Could it be possible that Dick is younger than the real (dead) Don?

  12. Jeff, Roberta blogged about the timeline here.

  13. FYI: My father was born early 1928, graduated high school June 45 and was drafted. Not sure of date of draft – his 18th birthday Jan 46?
    He served overseas in Phillipines. Upon his death we learned he was considered a WWII Era Vet. Got a certificate too.

  14. This week’s episode alludes to him selling cars in (we’ll say) 1952, since he says “that was the ’49, this is the 1950… the car is two years old.” Am I seeing this wrong, because this messes up the whole WW2/Korea timeline.

  15. Oh Gods, you're right; it keeps getting worse.

  16. Jumping ahead a bit.. Which episodes should I watch to learn how certain employees of Draper's agency "learned the truth" about Don's past? I've missed quite a few of the first season.

  17. HandEDave, only 2 Sterling Cooper employees (that we know of) know about Dick/Don. One is Pete Campbell, the other is Bert Cooper. Rachel Katz (nee Menken), a former client of Sterling Cooper knows a little about Don's upbringing, but doesn't know his real name is Dick Whitman.

    The Dick Whitman/Don Draper backstories are contained in episodes 5G (episode 5), The Hobo Code (episode 7), Long Weekend (episode 10), and Nixon vs. Kennedy (episode 12) of the first season.

  18. Oh, and in episode 11, Indian Summer, Pete intercepts some mail of Don's, which is how he finds out about Don's past.

  19. I apologize that my first post at this fabulous site is to take issue with another comment, but I simply can 't let this go unremarked upon:

    "Rural farming is hard work but it hardly creates a complicated soul."

    My father was raised on a farm in NC before and during the Depression. He and his 8 siblings were very aware via movies, newspapers, radio, passers-by that a very different world existed beyond the tobacco rows. He bolted for Europe during WWII, then left the South for good for NYC and eventually its suburbs, where he never really fit in yet neither could he return. His was among the most complicated souls I have ever encountered, yet so were those of some who stayed on to farm. Never underestimate the extent to which urbanites are under the spell of pop culture and ideology or the conflict experienced by rural folk whose lives remain perhaps more connected to both the very real and the manufactured.

    I have always thought Don's farm background is an exquisitely powerful reason-enough for his complexity.

  20. The ACTUAL stuff that is used on Don Draper's hair!

  21. Could it be possible that Dick is younger than the real (dead) Don?

    I think so. Anna Draper mentions in the flash back of "The Mountain King" that Dick had used her husband serial number to get a drivers license. This means Dick would have to assume real Don's information/history, including birth date when he established his new identity. Like Betty possibly shaving a few years off her real age, Dick probably added a few years in his employment information to make things consistent with the real Don's information to successfully take over Don's identity. He's too smart of a guy make let a stupid mistake like that ruin everything.

  22. Greetings! My dad, born in 1926, was denied serving because of his "role" that was important to the WWII effort: FARMING. So I agree with an early post: farmer deferment. Dick didn't avoid WWII by choice. But as the "First Son" of an American farmer, my Dad — a healthy stud — was NOT allowed to join; rather, stay back and farm. FYI: My beloved dad, now deceased, forever carried this "stigma" of NOT being a WWII vet; blow to his self-esteem; i.e., never felt he was quite "good" enuf, because he didn't serve WWII. He wasn't part of the VFW nor American Legion, he missed out on this "fraternity"…and so, he worked double/triple overtime as a magnanimous man to make up for this "deficiency." I mention all this, because a farm deferment in the midst of a county FILLED with "missing" 18-year-old boys…was a fact. That's why my Mom found my Dad to date! Mom said, "there were NO boys to take you to the movies" during WWII. Thx for reading this post all the way thru!

  23. Anna met Dick/Don in 1952, according the the scene where Dick is selling cars. She's already been looking for the real Don for a while, maybe up to a year? That would put Dick in Korea between 1950 and 1951. The war started in June 1950, and it sure seemed that the real Don had been there for a while by the time Dick gets there, plus there are hints in the scene in the military hospital that Don's time was nearly up – he's pretty close to going home before the explosion. So – maybe it's 1951?

    I always assumed that the real Don Draper was older than Dick (he certainly seemed much older and more worldly than Dick, who almost literally 'just fell off the back of the turnip truck' into the war zone), and that Dick assumed Don's birthdate when he assumed his identity. Being younger, say 18-20 in 1951, would explain why he wasn't eligible for service in WWII.

  24. gypsy could well be on to something … in Feb 1962 Don is 36 (his response in the drs office). could he have appropriated the real Don Draper's age?

    this makes the timelines used previously irrelevent … Don's actual age could be even younger. How much older do we think the real Don was than Dick? That could easily account for the funny gap in the timeline.

  25. I have given up on trying to figure out Don's age/birth date. There are so many inconsistencies in each episode.

    5G(?): The Advertising Age supp said he is 36 in 1960, dating his birth to ~1924

    Nixon vs. Kennedy: The above is probably Dick's age and not real Don's age because from Pete's snooping, the real Don "should be 43 years old, in which case you look remarkably good." We also learn from Pete that Don and Dick were in Korea in 1950.

    For Those Who Think Young: The doctor mentions Don is still 36 even though it's now 1962.

    The Mountain King: Dick tried get a driver's license with real Don's serial number, so the license says real Don's age. Also, we learn in that episode that Anna and Dick every Christmas together before he married Betty. Dick mentions Sally is 8 when he and Anna are on the porch, so Sally was born in 1954. Assuming Anna first tracks him down at the car dealership 1951/1952, the would have spent probably 1 or maximum 2 Christmases together before he married Betty.

    Out of Town: We have confirmation that Don's driver's license has real Don's birthday, as he flashes back on Dick's real birthday. I guess no one at Sterling-Cooper does a background check and takes his word for it and so does Advertising Age. I wonder if this will have consequences when real Don is suppose to hit 65 and he starts collecting social security.

  26. In "The Gold Violin," Anna says she and [the real] Don were married for seven years. It's not clear whether that includes all the time she's been looking for him.

    Don was 10 when his father died.

  27. One possibility no one seems to be considering is that Don lied to the Ad Age reporter in order to make himself appear older. Most journalists back then took you at your word — that's why, before the Internet, you'd find inaccurate (younger) ages for actors and actress. Don may have wanted to appear older, or may have wanted to further obscure his real past.

    (I think someone did suggest that Don may have simply been giving the real Don's age.)

  28. Actually, I did see that Empress Rouge offered the possibly that Ad Age had simply taken Don at his word. The "age 36" in Ad Age can probably be discounted

  29. I did some research and it appears that Matt Weiner did some research about Don’s new apartment, It appears the actual apartment is 45 East 72nd Street, Apt 17B, which is the upper most penthouse apartment in that building built in 1959. It is the only building near that intersection that was built postwar in the modern style with blond brick as seen on the balcony. There is another post-war building with balconies at 114 East 72nd street but that is brown brick and the apartment layouts are totally different. If you google 45 East 72nd St., Apt 17B, NYC you can still see the listing from December 2010 when it sold for 2.6 million. You can see the floor plan which is almost exact except for the location of the master bedroom. I suspect they looked in this area and this was on the market when they were blocking out Season 5 in late 2010

    • Nobody connected with Mad Men will admit doing any work on Season 5 prior to agreement of the various contracts in the spring of 2011.

      Rule 1 of all the union membership prohibits any member from doing work outside a contract. Bottom line is: No contract, no work.

      Matt Weiner will only admit writing outlines for Season 5 after all the contracts were signed. Dan Bishop and his art department were not able to start researching buildings until Matt Weiner had provided them specific directions.

      Of course since you found the listing for Apartment 17B, chances are good that once the Mad Men staff was allowed to find a prototype for the Draper apartment, it did not take them very long to locate the necessary information.

  30. Help! I’m using Don Draper as my psychology case for a Master’s Counseling class. I need to know the date, approximately, Betty found out about Dick Whitman. I can’t remember. Hope someone can help

    • The exact date is Oct 30, 1963 (day before Halloween) See Episode 3.11.

      I found your inquiry searching for Don’s 1960-61 salary. Do you remember it? I remember about $20,000 (=Peggy’s 1966 salary)

  31. By the “Ad Age supplement,” are you guys referring to the insert in “5G” containing the photo of Don and Roger receiving the award? I read the caption underneath that photo, and I don’t see it mentioning Don’s age.

  32. I don’t think Don was with Midge for five years. I think Don tries to be faithful to Betty because he did love her but I understand that his affairs were to show is how damaged he was. I wonder when he dirt started to cheat on her. He seemed like he was happily married to Betts even though he could never open up to her the way he could with his mistresses. I mean, even the stewardess knew it was his actual birthday when they hooked up.

  33. Does Dick/Don tell Megan that his real 40th birthday was months before or simply his real birthday? If the latter he could have just lied for the article, otherwise they bumped his age up and scewed up the chronology. Or is this mistaken?

    • Don and Megan’s birthday discussion is specifically about his 40th birthday, so I believe Dick/Don was 40 yrs, 6 mo. at the beginning of Season 5. Regarding his age being bumped up (or, more accurately, his birthday bumped back) between Seasons 1 and 2, see my reply to #5 above.

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