The history of Aliquippa is a complicated one with the booming steel industry, racial tension of the 70's,the demise of steel mills and jobs, and a renewed hope for the future. The region we now call, "Aliquippa" was first discovered around the 1750's where Native Americans on the Ohio River and French settlers would trade goods. Shortly after the French and Indian War, the region was mostly deserted although smaller neighboring towns continued to exist along the Ohio River. Contrary to popular belief, the name Aliquippa did not come from Queen Aliquippa, an Iroquois leader in the Pittsburgh area during the mid-18th century. The name actually came from the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad that built an amusement park and named it after a significant Seneca woman who lived near the Ohio River fork.
The late 1800's brought an emergence of the steel producing industry to the midwest including Pittsburgh and the Ohio River valley. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp. (J&L) had established themselves in the 1900's on Pittsburgh's South Side and demolished the amusement park to build a facility that stretched 7 miles along the river. The area was created with sections or neighborhoods labeled, "plans" that kept ethnic groups seperate. This was thought to reduce the language barrier and friction among the groups, but essentially segregated them from interacting. J&L continued to thrive even through The Great Depression of the 1930's by utilizing other skills such as farming during the difficult era. By the time World War II began, the area known as, "The Aliquippa Works" was producing rolled steel by the tons to build war machines for the U.S. The region boasted a reported poluation around 27,000 at this time but it would soon begin to decline.
By the 1970's, racial tension began to escalate including the students at Aliquippa and the school had to close on numerous occasions due to incidents. In May 1970 one such event resulted in a large standoff with the police, multiple gunshots, and tear gas. Angry mobs were not uncommon and the effect on the football team was noticeable as the victories were scarce and the negativity brought down the region as a whole. The downward trend carried over to the steel industry which began to decline in the late 70's and into the 80's where in 1984 J&L announced it would close most of their facilites and begin to lay off thousands of workers. By 2000, the tin mill closed as a final blow to the last remaining facility of what was once one a growing area where families relocated to, not moved away from. But move they did and the reported population began to decrease quickly and by 2000 only an approximate 11,734 remained.
While the area continues to struggle economically, the Quips were always a source of pride for the community. Legendary coach "King Carl" Aschman took the reigns in 1941 and immediately instilled a sense of discipline and a relentless attack while running the football to wear opponents down. This resonated well with the blue collar residents of Aliquippa and continues to even today. He retired in 1965 but certainly started the momentum that has carried the Quips for all these years including perhaps his most well known player, Mike Ditka. The program struggled for many years until Don Yannessa took over in 1973 and rebuilt the sleeping giant with the help of his long time friend Mike Zmijanac who joined the staff. Although they eventually left the Quips, Zmijanac returned in 1997 to the head position and is now the winningest coach in Aliquippa history. Perhaps his most famous alum, Darrelle Revis went on to star for the New York Jets before injuries caused a setback. He now plays for the New England Patroits but never forgets to come back home to Aliquippa.
You can read more about this historic town at Aliquippa.gov or read a fantastic article from Sports Illustrated at CNN SI.