About Us

Great Outdoors is a business with Florida publishing roots that go back four generations. Way back in 1913, Rube Allyn Sr., eccentric newspaperman and vaudevillian, produced the short-lived Sarasota Sun newspaper. Later in his career, he published a small, bimonthly magazine called "The Florida Fisherman". Rube Senior was not so much noted as notorious. He once attempted to float his publishing office across Sarasota Bay to elude creditors, by cutting it loose from the pier it sat on. It sank. In 1921 Rube was arrested in the murder of Harry Lee Higel, a wealthy Sarasota businessman and politician. There was insufficient evidence to try him and eventually he was released.

Rube is also known for being the first person ever to auction off an airplane ride. In 1914, Owen Burns paid $50 to fly over Sarasota Bay in a plane piloted by Tony Jannus and owned by the nation's very first scheduled airline, the Benoist Company. You can see a replica of the airplane at the St. Petersburg Museum of History, downtown. Rubonia, just north of Bradenton--today so small that calling it a "town" seems a gross exaggeration--is thought to have been named after Rube Senior as that was where he eventually settled.

Rubert Royce Allyn, Jr. learned the publishing business at his father's knee. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, Rube Junior wrote for the St. Petersburg Times newspaper, ultimately becoming its outdoor columnist. His primary beat was the fishing pier, and he enthusiastically reported who was catching what and where. Some of his "fish stories" were just that. Many of them were illustrated with goofy cartoons created by friend and fellow columnist Dick Bothwell, who was frequently called upon to confirm the veracity of whatever howler Rube came up with.

Although Rube travelled around Florida reporting on all sorts of outdoor activities, he was especially keen on fishing. While quizzing local anglers at the dock about their day's catch, he was so often asked "What kind of fish is this?" that he compiled his first book, Dictionary of Fishes, eventually publishing it himself, printing it on a press that was housed at one time in a tent, at another aboard a boat in the municipal basin. (Possibly he figured on eluding his creditors more effectively than his father had!)

After Rube retired from the Times he became a full-time publisher, producing more fishing books, fishing maps, boat plans and tide charts. Expanding beyond the realm of fishing and boating, he did books on shells, birds, reptiles, camping, Florida history and other topics, and was a founding member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association.

In 1964 Great Outdoors moved to the Lealman area of St. Petersburg. Rube's business was not only a publishing house, but a commercial printshop as well, with complete offset and letterpress services. Many a restaurant menu was printed there, including now-defunct Nine's ("Home of the World's Worst Ribs") and Ted Peter's Famous Smoked Fish, still thriving in nearby South Pasadena. He also sold tide charts, custom printed with the name and logo of fish camps and bait and tackle stores. He would fill his motor home with books and tide cards and travel around the state, visiting shell shops, bookstores, magazine stands, tourist attractions, and Seminole and Mikasuki Indian villages, delivering his wares and collecting information for his books.

Rube died in July 1968, hit by a car while riding his bicycle. But Great Outdoors continued under the guidance of Rube's son Charlie Allyn and his wife Joyce. One of Rube's last acts before his accident was to sell all the printing equipment, his intent being to write and to publish, but leaving the actual production of his books to others. Almost a decade later, Charlie bought back all the printing equipment and added more, and once again Great Outdoors was a commercial printer. But Charlie soon rued this action, tiring of always having to "feed the presses." After a while he sold the printing equipment. After Charlie's death in 1988, Joyce and daughter Jan ran the company. Joyce died in July 2005, but Great Outdoors continues. It now publishes more than 40 Florida titles and distributes about 400 others for publishers large and small.

In February 2009, Great Outdoors was purchased by, and became an imprint of, Finney Company of Apple Valley, Minnesota, a growing independent publisher, distributor, and manufacturer of educational materials. Finney Company's mission is to help improve the quality of lifelong learning worldwide. Under Finney Company's ownership, Great Outdoors will continue to work with existing and new authors.

Florida is a big and busy state, populated by folks from every corner of the globe. Many are relative newcomers who have not yet learned to appreciate its subtle beauty and fascinating history. The mission of Great Outdoors Publishing Company is to offer a selection of regional books that will inspire residents and visitors alike to understand, explore, respect, love, celebrate and preserve Florida's outdoors, so that they will come to realize what a unique and interesting place our state is, and become "real Floridians."


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