|Portrayed by||Jon Hamm|
|First appearance||Smoke Gets in Your Eyes|
|Final appearance||Person to Person|
|Employer||McCann Erickson (current)|
Sterling Cooper & Partners (former)
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (former)
Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency (former)
United States Army (former)
|Occupation||Founding and Senior Partner and Head of Creative at Sterling Cooper & Partners (Current) |
Founding and Senior Partner and Creative Director at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (former)
Junior Partner and Creative Director at Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency (former)
Creative Director at Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency (former)
Fur Salesman and Copywriter (former)
Car Salesman (former)
United States Army Private (former)
|Residence||Manhattan, NYC (currently) Ossining, NY (formerly)|
|Ex-Wife||Anna Draper (first wife, annulled)|
Betty Hofstadt (second wife, divorced)
Megan Calvet (third wife, divorced)
|Romantic Partners||See list|
|Parent(s)||Unnamed prostitute (mother, deceased)|
Abigail Whitman (stepmother, deceased)
Archibald Whitman (father, deceased)
Mack Johnson (stepfather, deceased)
|Sibling(s)||Adam Whitman (paternal half-brother, deceased)|
Donald Francis "Don" Draper is a founding partner and the Creative Director at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Advertising Agency in Manhattan, NY ("Shut the Door. Have a Seat"). Prior to that position, he was the Director of the Creative Department at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency ("Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"). He is regarded among his colleagues as the best to ever pitch copy. His true name is Richard "Dick" Whitman. He stole the identity of a dead officer during the Korean War.
Born in 1926, Richard "Dick" Whitman was the illegitimate child of a prostitute who died during childbirth. Dick lived with his father, Archie Whitman, and his father's wife, Abigail Whitman, until he was 10, at which time his father, a drunk, was kicked in the face by a horse and died. His stepmother, pregnant at the time, then "took up" with a new man, "Uncle Mack," and had another son, Dick's half-brother, whom she named Adam Whitman. Dick's childhood was unhappy, and his stepmother never allowed him to forget that he was a "whore's child" ("The Hobo Code").
Life in the Brothel
After moving into Uncle Mack's brothel, Dick spent his adolescence pick-pocketing the clients of the establishment. His motivation for stealing was money to buy Hershey's Chocolate bars. During this time, Dick Whitman heard about Milton S. Hershey and his school for orphans and imagined what it would be like to grow up in a happy place such as that. It is unknown whether he attended school in his teenage years, but sometime between his childhood and early adulthood he moved away from the brothel and got a job. He enlisted in the US Army, and was eventually deployed to Korea.
During military service in the Korean War Dick assumed the identity of Lieutenant Don Draper after Draper was killed while the two were posted alone at an isolated base. Dick then switched identification tags with Lt. Draper and assumed his name, cutting off contact with his family and creating a new life for himself. ("Nixon vs. Kennedy") He also took advantage of the identity theft to get himself an undeserved military award. Lt. Draper was due a Purple Heart, which was awarded to Dick, despite there was no evidence of Dick being hospitalized for a minimum of 24 hours as a result of enemy action (the requirement for the medal), however an exception may have been granted due to his survival of the explosion. Dick did not challenge this in order not to cast suspicion on himself for the identity theft (as well as being a decorated veteran would help him establish a respectable foothold in civilian life).
A New Life
Dick returns to the states as Don Draper. He takes up a job at a car dealership, where Anna Draper, the real Don Draper's wife, confronts him, telling Don that she knows he isn't who he claims he is ("The Mountain King"). Don comes clean with Anna, and promises to help take care of her, and they end up becoming close friends ("The Gold Violin"). Don eventually meets a young model named Betty Hofstadt. He excitedly tells Anna about her on their next Christmas together. Since Don Draper is still technically married to Anna, he tells her they will have to divorce so he can marry Betty, a request to which Anna cheerfully consents ("The Mountain King").
Don later works in New York city at Heller's, a specialty shop dealing in fur coats. Roger Sterling walks into the store, seeking a mink coat for Joan Holloway, whom he has just started seeing. Roger comments on an advertisement and Don states that it is one of his own. Roger hands Don a card, indicating that Roger works for an advertising firm.
When Roger opens the box up for Joan in a hotel room, he notices that Don has included a portfolio; he considers Don to be "out of line" for including it. A few days later, Don runs into Roger in the lobby of Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency, and tries to explain it away as coincidence. He asks Roger if he saw his work; Roger tells him that it was thrown away with the box. Don offers Roger a drink, and though it is 10 a.m., Roger accepts. Over drinks, Don tries to sell Roger on the idea of hiring him.
A few days later, Roger sees Don in the lobby again, waiting for the elevator. Roger is beside himself, angry that Don could not take a hint that he was not interested. Don stops Roger; while they board the elevator, he reminds Roger that he had offered Don a job the day before. Don smiles as Roger appears confused about his lapse in memory ("Waldorf Stories").
Don Draper has an intuitive understanding of the consumer's mind, making him a brilliant ad man and the award-winning star of Sterling Cooper, attracting and retaining major clients, commanding respect from those above and below him, being courted by rival firms, and generally living the picture-perfect life of a successful businessman in the early 1960s. However, Don rarely seems happy with his "perfect" life: he is often stressed, drinks and smokes constantly, and is prone to spells of moodiness.
Draper's tenuous and complex feelings toward his children are revealed when Pete Campbell threatens to expose his past, Don, at least momentarily, considered fleeing to Los Angeles and abandoning his wife and children. Bertram Cooper makes him a partner after Roger Sterling's most recent heart attack.
While he appears to love his wife, Betty, he is constantly sleeping with other women. He had a brief affair with client Rachel Menken and was previously involved with beatnik Midge Daniels. He has left work in the middle of the day to see French New Wave films, and reads poetry by the likes of Frank O'Hara. Don has an affair with Bobbie Barrett, the wife of actor/comedian Jimmy Barrett. Betty, Don's wife, kicks him out of their house because of his refusal to admit to his affairs.
After Betty kicks him out, he stays in a hotel and then visits Los Angeles for three weeks. He returns home at Betty's behest during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1963, Betty gives birth to Eugene Draper; she names him after her father, Eugene Hofstadt, who passed away during her pregnancy. Don begins another affair with Suzanne Farrell, Sally's teacher, while Betty has an unconsummated affair with Henry Francis. Later, Betty discovers Don's true identity and confronts him; Don breaks down and reveals his past. Several weeks later, this discovery of Don's identity becomes a contributing factor in Betty requesting a divorce; other factors include his affairs, Henry Francis' proclamation of love, and the assassinations of John Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald.
A New Company
When rumors of the purchase of the parent company of Sterling Cooper reached Don Draper, he pushes the senior partners to attempt a purchase of the company. Because he was forced to sign a contract to gain the business of Conrad Hilton, he is an employee of the company regardless of who owns it. After presenting an offer, they realize it is a lost cause, until they hit upon an idea. Lane Pryce, the representative from PPL with authority over everyone at Sterling Cooper, agrees to fire the senior partners, thereby severing their contracts (including the no-compete clauses in their contracts).
They secretly round up a list of clients loyal to them and steal important documentation that will smooth the transition. And they quietly select the first employees: Pete Campbell, Peggy Olson, Joan Holloway, and Harry Crane ("Shut the Door. Have a Seat").
After the new company is formed, an interview with Don by Jack Hammond from "Advertising Age" leads to bad publicity for the agency, which leads to a narrow client base and the Jai Alai account to be lost due to the fact that Don did not mention the client in the interview. The loss affects the agency financially as a result of the few clients it has. Peggy hires two actresses to keep an account at the agency as part of a publicity stunt, however it backfires after one of the actresses sues the other one for assault. Don gives Peggy bail and hush money, expressing disparagement of the idea, although Peggy informs him that it worked to the effect that the account has stayed with the agency.
Throughout the entire run of the series, Don Draper has been portrayed as a serial womanizer. Here is a list of all the women he has been involved with throughout Seasons 1–7.
- Allison ("Christmas Comes But Once a Year")
- Amy ("The Runaways")
- Anna Draper
- Bethany Van Nuys ("Public Relations")
- Betty Hofstadt ("Smoke Gets in Your Eyes")
- Bobbie Barrett ("The Benefactor")
- Candace ("Public Relations")
- Diana ("New Business", "Severance")
- Doris ("Waldorf Stories")
- Eve ("Person to Person")
- Faye Miller ("The Summer Man")
- Janine ("Public Relations")
- Joy ("The Jet Set")
- Lee ("Time Zones")
- Megan Calvet ("Chinese Wall")
- Midge Daniels ("Smoke Gets in Your Eyes")
- Rachel Menken ("Marriage of Figaro")
- Shelly ("Out of Town")
- Suzanne Farrell ("Wee Small Hours")
- Sylvia Rosen
- Unnamed Asian/Chinese/Japanese/Korean waitress ("Flight 1")
- Unnamed woman at a bar ("The Phantom")
- Unnamed woman 1 at the Clio's ("Waldorf Stories")
- Unnamed woman 2 at the Clio's ("Waldorf Stories")
Don: "She's a sweet girl, and she wants me to know her, but I already do. People tell you who they are but we ignore it, because we want them to be who we want them to be.”
-- ("The Summer Man")
Rachel: "Maybe. They taught us at Barnard about that word. Utopia. The greeks had two meanings for it: ‘eu-topos’, meaning ‘the good place’ and ‘ou-topos’, meaning ‘the place that cannot be.’"
-- A discussion between Don and Rachel, in Babylon.
Don: "She won't get married, because she's never been in love. I think I used that to sell nylons."
Rachel:"For a lot of people, love isn't just a slogan."
Don:"You mean love, you mean the big lightning bolt to the heart, where you can't eat, you can't work - you just run off and get married and make babies. The reason you haven't felt it is because it doesn't exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons."
Rachel: "Is that right?"
Don: "I’m sure about it. You're born alone and you die alone, and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you, to make you forget those facts - but I never forget. I'm living like there's no tomorrow; because there isn't one."
Rachel: "I don't think I realized until this moment that it must be hard, being a man too."
-- Don Draper on the subject of love in "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes".
Don: "Teddy told me that in Greek nostalgia literally means, the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge, in your heart. Far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship; it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It's not called "The Wheel". It’s called "The Carousel". It lets us travel in a way a child travels. Round and round, and then back home again. To a place where we know we are loved."
-- Don pitching "The Wheel" to Kodak, in The Wheel.
Don: "You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I'm living like there's no tomorrow, because there isn't one."
-- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Don Draper's style is sharp, suave, and subtly powerful. The collar of his crisp white dress shirt stands at attention, his suit is slim cut, his tie saber-straight. Don generally sticks to a monochromatic color scheme, he doesn't need color to make a splash. Don is suffering some personal turmoil this season, and his slightly rumpled wardrobe reflects his inner chaos and new bachelor lifestyle. We hate to say it, but Betty was Don's most stylish accessory; without her he's a bit lackluster. Of all the characters, Don is the least to change throughout the decade of the 1960's. His basic grey or blue suit, white shirt, dark tie and hat remain even toward the end of the decade when such a look was in decline. Don transcends fashion; he has the eternal iconic appearance as the man in the gray/grey suit.
While Don Draper's sense of style is heavily conveyed through his fashion sense, the space he occupies is equally important as an influence on how we perceive this character. Don's office, to fit with the era, is a mid-century modern design. In the first few seasons it is dominated by dark colors, particularly emphasized by the dark wood paneling on the walls, with lighter hues only coming from the various art and decorative pieces. His luxurious office chair, the Eames Time Life, adds to his masculine character with its black leather upholstery and chrome frame.
As the seasons progress and the company changes offices, Don's surroundings take on a lighter color, this move from dark to light parallels with the ongoing opening up of Don's backstory as the shell surrounding this enigma slowly begins to crack. While Don will always be defined by the suits he wears, a more subtle expression of his character and his story is portrayed by the office that defines his place in the world.