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Dan Rios papers

Identifier: SC003

Content Description

Approximately 222.31 linear ft. (195 boxes with around 43,000 envelopes) of photograph negatives, photographic prints, and correspondence created by Daniel Flores Rios, Chief Photographer, Escondido Times-Advocate and North County Times from 1968-2001. The earlier years of the collection contain images by other Times-Advocate photographers as well. The papers provide a visual documentation of the San Diego geographic region with a strong emphasis on North County and its community, places, and events that helped shape its history. The negatives are in varying formats, predominately 35mm and 120mm, in both color and black and white, positive and negative film. Acetate film was used from 1925 to the present, and polyester film from 1960 to the present and both may be included. Film is safety film.

In addition to the estimated 1,000,000 negatives in the collection, Dan's papers also contain smaller numbers of 8x10 and large format photographic prints and slide film. There is also a substantial amount of correspondence in the collection, and many of the envelopes that house the negatives contain important context about both the photography and the newsroom process at the Times-Advocate.


  • 1968-2001


Conditions Governing Access

The Dan Rios papers are currently undergoing processing and are open for research. The department has internal documentation over what is in individual envelopes and can search for people, places, and events from 1968 - 2001 in advance of any visits so that we can ensure we have materials on hand for researchers. Please contact Special Collections in advance to request access.

The Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room is accessible by appointment only, Monday-Friday, 8am - 4pm. Final requests for materials must be made one hour prior to closing. Please submit requests for archival materials at least 24 hours in advance of desired appointment. Materials requested over the weekend will be available on the following Tuesday at the earliest. Please note that Special Collections and University Archives observes all campus holiday closures as noted in the Library Calendar. For more information, please send an email to

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights to the physical object belong to CSUSM University Library. Intellectual rights, including copyright for Dan Rios's photography belong to CSUSM University Library. Other rights may reside with the creators of the records and their heris. For permission to reproduce or to publish, please contact

Permission to examine Library materials is not authorization to publish or to reproduce the examined material in whole, or in part. Persons wishing to quote, publish, perform, reproduce, or otherwise make use of an item in the Library’s collections must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of the copyright holder.

The researcher assumes full responsibility for use of the material and agrees to hold harmless the University Library, and California State University, against all claims, demands, costs, and expenses incurred by copyright infringement or any other legal or regulatory cause of action arising from the use of the Library's materials.

In assuming full responsibility for use of the material, the researcher also understands that the materials they examine may contain Social Security numbers, other personal identifiers, and/or sensitive material on potentially living and identifiable individuals (e.g., medical, evaluative, or personally invasive information). The researcher agrees not to record, reproduce, or disclose any Social Security number or other information of a highly personal nature that may be found.

Biographical / Historical

The Escondido Times-Advocate was created with a merger of the Escondido Times (started 1886) and the Escondido Advocate (1891), and was published from 1909-1995. The Escondido Times-Advocate then merged with the North County Blade-Citizen of Oceanside on December 3, 1995, and was subsequently known as the North County Times. In 2012, the North County Times was bought by The San Diego Union Tribune.

Biographical / Historical

Dan Rios was one of six children born in the San Joaquin Valley town of Hanford, the son of a day laborer and a housekeeper, Theodore and Jennie Rios. The family moved to San Diego when Rios was thirteen, settling into a house near the Ocean Beach Pier. Rios dropped out of school in the eighth grade to work for a landscape maintenance company. Two years later, Rios started his own landscaping business that became so successful that he hired his father after the business had been open a year.

At the age of twenty-one, Rios went back to school to get his high school degree and then enrolled in Mesa College, studying civil engineering. As a class assignment, Rios was assigned to find a hobby to enjoy when he’d retire, and so he bought his first camera. Soon after, Rios enrolled in a photography class at City College, where, now 26, he found both his vocation and his avocation. He built a darkroom in his house and would buy film in 100 foot rolls. When Rios wasn’t shooting photography, he was developing it. He soon changed schools to City College and took up a new major: photography.

Starting with an advertising agency, Rios learned to shoot and develop color photos, a skill which helped him land a job with the Escondido Times-Advocate, which in 1968 was looking to hire a photographer that could help the paper transition from all black-and-white photography to color. Rios worked for the paper until his retirement in 2001 at the age of 60. During that time, Rios not only participated in the paper’s transition from black-and-white to color; he also saw the paper transition from an afternoon to a morning paper in 1990, managed the paper’s transition to digital photography in the 1990s, and witnessed the merger of the Time-Advocate with the North County Blade-Citizen in 1995, which created The North County Times.

In 2001 Dan and Theresa Rios were married; and together they parented 8 children. Dan Rios passed away September 6, 2023.

During Rios’s time as Chief Photographer for the Escondido Times-Advocate and The North County Times, he had over nine-thousand of his images published in the newspapers. Rios photographed an average of over 4 assignments per day over his thirty-three year career. In addition to his news assignments, Rios and the paper’s other photographers were encouraged to create “grab art,” traveling the area and photographing what caught their attention, and the paper did not limit photographers’ film and processing supplies including paper and chemicals. Though his work ranged all over North San Diego County, and at times farther afield, most of Rios’s work was focused on the people and happenings of Escondido and North San Diego County.

When Rios arrived at the Times-Advocate in the morning, typed assignments from reporters or editors – and later envelopes with the assignments written on them – would be waiting. Rios would divvy out the assignments to himself and other photographers. The assignments would contain detailed information on the photo shoot; people and places to shoot, addresses and times if needed, background context on the article, and anticipated publication date.

Once assignments were handed out the photographers would hit the road. Reporters and photographers would often arrive separately for a story as dictated by the needs of their days. When on the scene of a shoot, Rios was able to picture the image in his mind’s eye, and most of the time new what the final result would be before the film was developed. Once the photography for the day was finished, photographers would drop the film off for processing; early on it was Rios that did the processing, but the Times-Advocate eventually hired a lab technician, which freed Rios up to do more photography a day, and allowed for him to shoot grab art.

Once the photographs were developed, the photographers would write the important information on the back of the prints and drop them off with the paper’s reporters and editors, who would write the captions and handle the layout. About half of Rios’s assignments were for publication the next day, and the other half for longer-running stories. Rios also had the duty to shoot the Sunday supplement color cover image.

The Times-Advocate made the jump to digital photography around 1997, most likely due to finances, as digital cameras would save the paper substantially on film and processing. Still early digital cameras were cumbersome, expensive, and did not contain much memory, and Rios found them much more constrictive to work with than cameras from the film era.


222.31 Linear Feet (186 containers totaling 195 boxes and drawers of various sizes, roughly sized like postcard boxes. Metal containers house 2 or 3 drawers each.)




The collection, created by Daniel Flores Rios, Chief Photographer, Escondido Times-Advocate and North County Times from 1968-2001, provides a visual documentation of the San Diego North County geographic region, community, and events that helped shape its history.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Dan Rios to Special Collections, California State University San Marcos Library, on April 17, 2018.

Related Materials

The Escondido Historical Newspapers, available to those with campus IDs and those with campus access only, contain photographs by Dan Rios, as well as accompanying information such as captions, issue dates, and related articles. The newspapers can be found at

Guide to the Dan Rios papers.
In Progress
Sean Visintainer
2019-08-05 cc
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the CSUSM Special Collections Repository

California State University San Marcos Library
333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd
San Marcos California 92096-0001 United States