Born in East Falls Church, Virginia on March 27, 1908, Lucretia Breazeale
moved to Arizona with her family in 1920 when her father accepted a position
at the Sacaton USDA Experiment Station on the Pima Indian Reservation. In
1922, the Breazeales moved to Tucson where Lucretia finished grammar school,
graduated from high school and attended the University of Arizona. She
majored in botany and minored in art, becoming a botanical laboratory assistant. Even
as a college student, her prowess in botanical illustrating helped other
students to understand the field of view in their microscopes. She
graduated with a B.S. in botany in 1932.
In 1935, she married Louis Hamilton, a horticulturalist who worked for
the USDA Soil Conservation Service on the Navajo Reservation. The
Hamiltons lived in Shiprock, New Mexico and made many Navajo friends. In
1938, Lucretia and Louis Hamilton moved to Tucson to work at the Tucson
Plant Materials Center. Lucretia gave birth to two children, a son
and a daughter, and continued to develop as a plant illustrator. University
of Arizona professors asked for her assistance in producing illustrations
for articles and later for books.
Sometimes a single illustration required months or years to complete,
as Lucretia Hamilton waited for the plant to go through its seasons of
flowering and fruiting. Illustrating cacti became her special area
of interest and expertise. Many illustrators avoided these plants
due to the complexity of the myriad of spines and the discomfort of handling
the prickly specimens. She co-authored Plants that Poison with
Dr. Ervin Schmutz and illustrated Cacti of the U.S. and Canada by
Dr. Lyman Benson. The latter book took approximately 25 years to
complete. Hamilton also illustrated 14 other books and numerous technical
bulletins for the University of Arizona. Known for her sharp, professional
drawings, Lucretia Hamilton was one of 181 artists from 29 countries invited
to participate in the International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustrations
at the Hunt Botanical Library in Pittsburgh in 1973.
Botanists in the field and professors greatly appreciated her scientific
illustrations. “Her work has benefited 3 generations of students
and professionals,” and “is a significant part of Arizona scientific
heritage,” wrote Rodney G. Engard, Director of Tucson Botanical Gardens
in 1987. Regarding Lucretia Hamilton’s illustrations of cacti, “There
is no more complete or accurate record of these plants anywhere,” wrote
Robert Breunig, Executive Director of the Desert Botanical Gardens in 1992.
Lucretia Breazeale Hamilton was a founding member of the Native Plant
Society. She remained an active member throughout her life while
also continuing to study and illustrate plants. She died in 1986.
Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records