Whitman is a town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 14,489 at the 2010 census. It is notable as being the place where the chocolate chip cookie was invented.
Whitman was first settled by Europeans in 1670 and was officially incorporated in 1875. Prior to becoming Whitman, it was formally the southern parish of the town of Abington. The new name, Whitman, was taken from Augustus Whitman, whose family who grew up in South Abington, and was adopted in 1886. Though before adopting the name Whitman, the small town was known as Little Comfort.
Whitman has a rich history that is deeply rooted in the shoemaking industry. Regal Shoe and Bostonian Shoe are perhaps the most notable companies. At one time there were over 20 shoe factories and related factories making metal shanks in town. There are a few abandoned factories left, and some have been turned into condominiums.
In the late 1930s, Ruth Graves Wakefield invented chocolate chip cookies in Whitman at the Toll House Inn on Bedford Street. The Toll House burned completely on New Year’s Eve 1984, in a fire that originated in the kitchen. The inn was not rebuilt. The site is marked with a historical marker, and that land is now home to a Wendy’s restaurant and Walgreens pharmacy, with the Toll House sign still in existence. The former Whitman Savings Bank was also the first in the country to offer savings bank life insurance (SBLI). Whitman is the home of the famous Peaceful Meadows Ice Cream, as well as the former home of Saftler’s Inc., one of the oldest and largest independently owned fabric stores in the country, which closed in June 2011. In 1964 The Venus Cafe was founded by former professional wrestler Peter Drosos, who fought under the name Pete “The Golden Greek”.
From 1968 to 1994, Whitman was also home to King’s Castle Land, a children’s amusement park owned by the Whitney family and located near the intersection of Routes 18 and 14.
The Whitman Fire Bell, known and loved for its boisterous ring as a call to action in the event of a fire, could be heard throughout the town. The bell has since been defunded with no plans to reactivate. Firefighter Bryan Smith (6’4″, formerly of Southern Tar) was the last known operator of the bell.
Since the mid-1960s, Whitman has been paired with Hanson as a part of what was the Whitman-Hanson Regional High School School District but later joined as Whitman-Hanson Regional School District with the addition of the elementary and middle schools. There are two elementary schools in town; the Duval and Conley Schools (in the east and west parts of town, respectively), which serve students from kindergarten through fifth grade. The Whitman Middle School, located south of Route 27 in the western part of town, serves students from sixth to eighth grades. Students from both Whitman and Hanson attend Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, located along Route 27 on the Hanson side of the road. Students moved into the new, more technologically advanced school building in 2005 from the previous school, which was closer to the road (the former Whitman-Hanson High School is no longer standing and its old location is now home to athletic fields.) Whitman-Hanson’s teams are known as the Panthers, and their colors are red and black. One of their chief rivals is nearby Abington, against whom they have played 109 annual Thanksgiving Day football games through 2019. In 2010, Whitman-Hanson played the 100th anniversary game against Abington. Whitman-Hanson leads the series, 60–46–3, through the 2019 season, although Abington won the 2019 meeting. In addition to Whitman-Hanson, students may choose to attend South Shore Regional Vocational Technical High School in Hanover free of charge. There are no private schools in the town, but both Hanson and Brockton have private schools. The nearest college is Massasoit Community College in neighboring Brockton.
As of the census of 2000, there were 13,882 people, 4,999 households, and 3,604 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,995.7 people per square mile (770.1/km2). There were 5,104 housing units at an average density of 733.8 per square mile (283.1/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.15% White, 0.65% African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.48% from other races, and 1.12% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.88% of the population.
There were 4,999 households, out of which 36.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.5% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.9% were non-families. Of all households 22.4% were made up of individuals, and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.77 and the average family size was 3.30.
In the town, the population was spread out, with 26.7% under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 33.6% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.1 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $55,303, and the median income for a family was $63,706. Males had a median income of $41,950 versus $30,629 for females. The per capita income for the town was $23,002. About 2.0% of families and 3.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.8% of those under age 18 and 8.0% of those age 65 or over.
Statistically, Whitman is the 133rd largest community by population and 52nd most densely populated in the state. On average, Whitman’s population is below the average but above the median, and its population density is well above the state average.