Henry Peavey

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Henry Peavey
Henry Peavey in 1922
Born (1882-03-03)March 3, 1882
Died December 27, 1931(1931-12-27) (aged 49)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Cause of death Syphilis
Occupation Cook, valet

Henry Peavey (March 3, 1882 [1] – December 27, 1931) was the cook and valet of Hollywood silent film director William Desmond Taylor. Peavey worked for Taylor for six months prior to Taylor's murder in 1922.

Employment by Taylor[edit]

Prior to working for William Desmond Taylor, Peavy was employed by the wife of director Christy Cabanne.[2] Peavy was hired by Taylor after he dismissed his previous butler, Edward F. Sands, for forging his signature on checks.[3]

Three days before Taylor's murder, Peavey had been arrested for "social vagrancy" and charged with being "lewd and dissolute".[4] On the day following Taylor's murder on February 1, 1922, Taylor was scheduled to appear in court on Peavey's behalf.

Taylor's death[edit]

Peavey discovered Taylor's body at 7:30 on the morning of February 2, 1922. He was repeatedly questioned by police and reporters for possible leads, but was of little help. Some Hearst reporters suspected that Peavey was withholding information, so they kidnapped him a few weeks after the crime and attempted to scare him into a confession.[5] In a 1930 interview, Peavey expressed the (widely unsupported) opinion that Mabel Normand had been the person who killed Taylor.[6]

Henry Peavey in 1922


A few months after the Taylor murder, Peavey left Los Angeles and moved to San Francisco. In 1930, he was admitted to the Napa State Hospital with general paresis due to an untreated case of syphilis.[7] He died there of tertiary syphilis on December 27, 1931.[8]


  1. ^ Henry Peavey in the World War I draft living in San Francisco.
  2. ^ "Meet Henry Peavey", Los Angeles Record (February 13, 1922), reprinted in Taylorology 86.
  3. ^ Starr, Kevin (1985). Inventing the Dream:California through the Progressive Era. Oxford University Press. p. 327. ISBN 0-199-92326-4. 
  4. ^ "Valet in Court on Vagrancy Charge", Los Angeles Record (February 3, 1922), reprinted in Taylorology 60.
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times (February 22, 1922), reprinted in Taylorology, p. 6. For the perspective of one of the kidnappers, see Florabel Muir, Headline Happy (Holt, 1950), pp. 100-102.
  6. ^ Los Angeles Record (January 7, 1930). This is examined much further in "Why Taylor's Servant Thought Mabel Normand was the Killer", Taylorology, p. 10.
  7. ^ Higham, Charles (2006). Murder in Hollywood: Solving a Silent Screen Mystery. Terrace Books. p. 189. ISBN 0-299-20364-6. 
  8. ^ "Taylor Valet Hunt Opens. Fitts Aide Desires to Question Peavey on New Developments.". Los Angeles Times. May 9, 1937. Search for Henry Peavey, former Negro valet for William Desmond Taylor, was instituted by the District Attorney's office yesterday as the reopened investigation into the murder of the once famous motion-picture director took on added intensity. 

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