Named for John Hancock, West Virginia's smallest, northernmost, and most industrial county occupies 86 square miles at the tip of the Northern Panhandle. Squeezed between Ohio to the west and north and Pennsylvania to the east, it is connected to West Virginia only by the five-mile southern border it shares with Brooke County, from which it was formed in 1848.
The county grew slowly throughout the nineteenth century, but burgeoned after the steel company community of Weirton was founded in 1909. Hancock's most familiar product is not steel, however, but Fiesta Ware, the colorful pottery that the Homer Laughlin China Company, counting on the appeal of cheerful design at the depth of the Depression, introduced in 1936 and still manufactures at Newell. In the summer of 1998, the company produced its 500-millionth piece.
In 2000, Hancock County had a population of 32,667, a decline from its 1980 peak of 40,418. Two-thirds of the total reside in Weirton.
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