The Pittsburgh Athletic Club or the Pittsburg Athletic Club football team, established in 1891, was based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1892 the intense competition between two Pittsburgh-area clubs, the Allegheny Athletic Association and the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, led to William (Pudge) Heffelfinger becoming the first known professional football player. Heffelfinger was paid $500 by Allegheny to play in a game against Pittsburgh on November 12, 1892. As a result, Heffelfinger became the first person to be paid to play football. Allegheny would go on to win the game, 4-0, when Heffelfinger picked up a Pittsburgh fumble and ran it 35 yards for a touchdown. In 1893, Pittsburgh again made history when it signed one of its players, probably halfback Grant Dibert, to the first known pro football contract, which covered all of the team's games for the year.
In 1891 the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, then called the East End Gymnasium Club, decided to field a football team. Their rival, the Allegheny Athletic Association, started up a football team in 1890 that brought a lot of publicity to their club. In most sports, Allegheny provided little competition for the older East End Gymnasium Club. However, in 1890, Allegheny found that it could compete in football. The team soon gave the Allegheny Athletic Association a strong following, since East End did not field a team. The Association's focus on football increased the prestige of the club, which led to an increase in their membership. Soon Allegheny's membership expanded to more than 330 persons and now equalled East End's.
During the late 1800s, if an athletic club exhibited signs of fame and glory, increased revenues to the club soon followed. Therefore, publicity, and football victories, were important to the clubs and new members were attracted to clubs with stature. The quest for club prestige led to the recruiting of football players, at first with indirect financial inducements. The East Ends formed their team around the clubs physical director, William Kirschner, an offensive lineman. During Kirschner's stint with the football team, it was noted in the Pittsburgh newspapers that Kirschner's salary nearly doubled during football season, while his classes he taught at the club were cut in half. The papers at times hinted to Kirschner's suspiciously professional status, although no one accused him outright.