Records of the Chief Clerk's office consist mostly of records of Chief Clerk William J. Rhees, 1869-1905. Rhees, who joined the Smithsonian Institution staff in 1852,
performed many functions over the years, including general correspondence supervision, distribution of scientific publications, supervision of Smithsonian publications, and
archival duties. For the most part, Clerk's records are retained here while papers relating to Rhees' work on Smithsonian history and other projects remain in his personal
papers; but some overlapping is unavoidable. Some records among the incoming correspondence probably belong with secretarial records, and some records very similar to those
retained here in the Clerk's series may be found among secretarial
records. The paperwork system of the offices is not fully understood, a problem compounded by later rearrangements of the records.
The most valuable part of this record unit is the incoming correspondence from Spencer Fullerton Baird, 1875-1887, and, to a lesser degree, incoming correspondence from
Samuel P. Langley.