Last updated on March 19, 2021
In the biographical research I’ve done on Henry Sully (1679-1728), I identified the names of the children that he fathered. Four were with his first wife, in Holland. Then after he remarried in Paris, indications are that he had two more children, and may have lost one of the four children born in his first marriage. Searches of online genealogical information have to date provided no clues as to what may have happened to Sully’s surviving five children, including his two sons.
Very little is known about what happened to any of his children after Sully’s untimely death in 1728, which by all accounts left his family destitute. However, while researching something else in the digitized archives on the Gallica web site (of the French National Library), I chanced upon this tantalizing reference. It appears in the 26 August 1754 issue of the bi-weekly Parisian paper “Affiches, annonces, et avis divers“, which published ads of properties for sale, death notices, articles for sale, books published, etc.
In the VENTES [Sales] section of that edition, one reads (my translation):
[Sales of] Effects (after the death of Mister Solly, Horloger [watch/clockmaker]) such as furniture, men’s wardrobe, stock from a watch/clock-making shop, and necessary tools for that profession. Today, monday the 26th of this month, and following days, Harlay Street, beside the Palace Gate. The apartment is available to rent now. There are different furnishings, such as wooden furniture, alcove, buffets, cabinets and mirrors, of which the new renter could become the adjudicator.
The name is spelled with an “o” instead of a “u”, but the similarity, and the fact that the deceased man exercised the same profession as Henry Sully, suggests that this may indeed be one of his sons, either “Henry” or “Charles Henry”, whom in a legal document from 1729 that I also discovered, were listed as two of his five surviving children at that time (the other three being daughters – it appears that a son “John” born in Holland may not have survived into adulthood). Henry (son) would have been the oldest, and would have been 46 in 1754. Charles Henry (son) would have been born in Paris, and would have been in his mid-late 30’s in 1754.
It would make sense that one of Sully’s surviving sons should have followed in his footsteps after his death. After all, Sully probably spent many hours at home showing them the basics of the watch/clock-making skills. And he may have been able to place one into an apprenticeship with one of the many Parisian horlogers that he knew, most notably his friend Julien Le Roy.
Harlay street in Place Dauphine on Ile de la Cité is one of the most famous Parisian streets for horlogers, and many of the greatest names had workshops and storefronts there (e.g. Lenoir, Béliard, Girard, Berthoud, etc.)[*]. The fact that Julien Le Roy also had his business on Harlay street suggests that he could have helped young Solly establish himself there, if he was indeed the son of his friend Henry. Julien was still alive in 1754, he himself would die five years later.
It’s unclear from the ad whether Solly was living alone, but obviously only the men’s wardrobe is for sale. And the apartment seems to be available immediately, and furnished, which suggests that there may not have been a wife to need those furnishings after Solly’s death.
Hopefully, future research will either confirm or dispell that this mysterious “Mr. Solly” was indeed Henry Sully’s son, and provide information on the lives of his other children, as well as his widow.
[*] See Adolphe Chapiro, La Montre Française, Les éditions de l’amateur, 1991.
March 19, 2021 – Update.
Some days ago, I found a document referencing the birth of the last(?) son of Henry Sully and Angélique Potel, also named Henry, who was baptised on 18 May 1721 (born on 7 May). The godfather for young Henry is identified as Julien Le Roy, which further underlines the deep friendship between the two horologists, who had met in 1715 and collaborated together. Another interesting detail is that Henry Sully is identified as “Maître horloger” (Master watch-clockmaker). His request to be received in the Parisian guild had been refused in 1716 (see my article appearing in June 2021 in Antiquarian Horology Journal). So at some point between 1716 and 1721, he seems to have joined the guild.
My feeling at this point, probably impossible to prove, is that after Sully’s death in 1728, which by all accounts left his family destitute, Julien Le Roy may have provided financial support to the family, and taken his godson young Henry under his wing some years later, and possibly apprenticed him (officially or not) in his workshop. Thus it may be this young Henry Sully (Solly) who died in August 1754 (at age 33) and whose possessions were put up for sale on 26 August of that year on Harlay Street in Paris, not far from where his godfather Julien Le Roy lived and worked.
So little was known about Sully’s personal life and family, until I started working on documenting his life and work, a couple of years ago. The two discoveries identified in this post, offer clues that a son of his may in fact have followed in his footsteps and entered the horological trade, assisted by Sully’s old friend Julien Le Roy.
Below is the entry for the birth of Henry Sully (son), included in Léon de Laborde’s “Répertoire alphabétique d’artistes et artisans tirés de l’état civil parisien“. In compiling the various records in his books, Laborde was able to access birth records in the Parisian archives, which were sadly all destroyed some years later, in the fires set by the communards during the revolt of the Commune of Paris in 1871, where the buildings holding both copies of historical Parisian archives were burned to the ground. Were it not for Laborde capturing the record in his book, this entry for Sully’s son may never have been known.
And thus, another couple of small puzzle pieces from the life of Henry Sully are brought forth into the light of day, awaiting other discoveries yet to come…