The town was founded in 1828 and incorporated as a city in 1875. Nearby clay pits supported a pottery industry; the W. S. George Pottery Company was formed in 1909 from the East Palestine Pottery Company and operated in the town until the 1950s.
As of the census of 2000, there are 4,917 people, 1,975 households, and 1,384 families residing in the city. The population density is 685.4/km² (1,772.1/mi²). There are 2,108 housing units at an average density of 293.8/km² (759.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 98.47% White, 0.37% African American, 0.06% Native American, 0.14% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.26% from other races, and 0.69% from two or more races. 0.71% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 1,975 households out of which 30.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.6% are married couples living together, 11.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 29.9% are non-families. 25.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 14.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.49 and the average family size is 2.98.
In the city the population is spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 38 years. For every 100 females there are 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $35,738, and the median income for a family is $40,057. Males have a median income of $30,550 versus $17,237 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,243. 10.0% of the population and 5.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 22.0% are under the age of 18 and 2.2% are 65 or older.