Dan H. Wheeler, 85, a retired official of the Interior Department, died of cancer Friday at the Wisconsin Avenue Nursing Home. He had lived in Chevy Chase until entering the home about a year ago.

Mr. Wheeler spent more than 40 years in the federal service. He began as a private in the Army in World War I. In 1919, the year in which he left the Army, he became a clerk in the old Veterans Brueau. When he retired in 1962, he was the assistant director of the office of terriotoies in the Department of the Interior.

In the years between, Mr. Wheeler earned a law degree from George Washington University in 1923 and then joined the Department of Commerce as a legislative researcher and draftsman. From 1933 to 1939, he was an official of the Emergency Administration of Public Works.

He then joined the Interior Department and for the next several years one of his primary concerns was coal and solid fuels. He was acting director and then director of the department's bituminous coal division. In 1943, he became assistant deputy solid fuels administrator and in 1945 deputy solid fuels administrator. From 1946 to 1947, he was chairman of a combined coal commission involving the United States, Canada and Britain. He became assistant director of the office of territories in 1950.

He received the Interior Department's honor award for distingulished service in 1953 and a certificate of appreciation upon his retirement in 1962.

Mr. Wheeler also was active in community affairs. He was a member of the board of directors of the old Community Chest and was a vice president of the United Community Services of Washington. He was a member of the allocations committee of the United Givers Fund. He was a Mason.

Mr. Wheeler's wife, Carolyn, whom he married in 1928, died in 1977.

Survivors include a son, Robert F., of the home in Chevy Chase, and a daughter, Carol Pittman, of Del Mar, Calif., and three grandchildren.