Don Draper

Don Draper

Donald "Don" Draper is a fictional character and the protagonist of AMC's television series Mad Men. He is portrayed by Jon Hamm. On the show, Don is seen as the creative director of the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. He's married to Betty Draper, with whom he has two children, Sally and Bobby. In, "Three Sundays," Don cheats on Betty with Bobbie Barrett, wife of Jimmy Barrett, a comedian and TV personality. Betty kicks Don out of the house two episodes later.


Little is known of Don Draper’s past, as his history and identity is a running mystery of the series. Clues to his past are given through some flash backs and a few confessions to one of his mistresses. “Don Draper” is in fact not his real name. He was born Richard “Dick” Whitman some time around 1925 or 1926 (as of February 14, 1962 he is 36 years old). He was born as a result of his father (Archibald Whitman)’s affair with a prostitute, who died in childbirth. Draper/Whitman was thus left to be raised by his abusive father, Archibald Whitman, and his father’s wife. When he was ten years old, his father was kicked by a horse and died. Draper/Whitman’s stepmother was pregnant when her husband died, and met and began a relationship with a man known as “Uncle Mack” at some point before she gave birth to Adam. Though he developed a close relationship with his half-brother, his step-parents were resentful and even abusive. Flashbacks in the Season One episode “The Hobo Code” provide a glimpse into his family life.

When Draper/Whitman was 18 years old, he enlisted in the United States Army and was sent to war during the Korean War. Soon he was put under the command of Second Lieutenant Donald Draper, an engineer who had joined the army years before to earn money for his education. Draper/Whitman alone was assigned to Lieutenant Draper to establish a field hospital. Soon after, while digging fighting positions, the two men were fired upon, the commotion ultimately resulting in a fire. Lieutenant Draper died and was burned beyond recognition. In a split-second decision, Draper/Whitman switched his dog tags with his commanding officer’s before passing out. The body of Lieutenant Draper (believed to be the corpse of Dick Whitman) was given to the Whitman family—though the young Adam was suspicious—and Draper/Whitman began a new life.

Though not many details have been provided as to how Don Draper became the creative director at Sterling Cooper, some details have been given. For some time Draper was a used car salesman before writing copy for a fur company. It was at this job that he met his future wife, Betty, who was then a professional model. Though she at first refused his advances, he eventually won her over by buying her the blue fur coat she had modeled and been reluctant to return. They soon married and had two children, Sally and Bobby. Though Draper cares for his family and strongly desires to be a good husband and father, he has had numerous affairs. It is implied that he is unsatisfied with his life and marriage to the point that he questions whether or not he loves his wife.

Draper is the creative director and a junior partner at the fictitious advertising agency, Sterling Cooper. He is considered an asset to the company as he is considerably talented at understanding the desires of others and selling his ideas to them. He has occasionally been courted by other advertising firms, but up until this point he remains loyal to Sterling Cooper. There is a division among the employees at Sterling-Cooper in terms of their opinion of Don Draper. Most everyone respects his talent, but his true character remains mysterious and heavily guarded from them. This is most true for account executive Pete Campbell, who has coveted Draper’s job for sometime and even went as far as to try to blackmail him at the end of the first season. Campbell stole a package sent to Draper from his long-lost, half-brother Adam, which reveal Draper’s true identity. To both Pete and Don’s surprise, the senior partner Bert Cooper could not have cared less and it is presumed that Draper’s past remains unknown to the rest of the employees. Equally complex is Draper’s relationship with Peggy Olson, who began as his secretary but with his support eventually became a copywriter. It has been hinted in Season Two that their personal relationship is more complex than it first appears, having each helped the other when in trouble.


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