The Quincy Mining Company founded Hancock in 1859.
In 1869 a fire burnt down about 75% of the city.
Hancock is the home of Finlandia University.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.4 km² (2.8 mi²). 6.5 km² (2.5 mi²) of it is land and 0.9 km² (0.3 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 12.28% water. Hancock is connected to Houghton, Michigan by the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, which as the name implies crosses Portage Lake.
As of the census of 2000, there are 4,323 people, 1,769 households, and 902 families residing in the city. The population density is 667.6/km² (1,727.5/mi²). There are 1,983 housing units at an average density of 306.3/km² (792.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 95.95% White, 0.76% African American, 0.93% Native American, 1.06% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.23% from other races, and 1.04% from two or more races. 0.76% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 1,769 households out of which 23.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.2% are married couples living together, 9.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 49.0% are non-families. 38.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 14.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.22 and the average family size is 2.97.
In the city the population is spread out with 19.0% under the age of 18, 18.0% from 18 to 24, 22.6% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37 years. For every 100 females there are 98.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 97.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $28,118, and the median income for a family is $36,625. Males have a median income of $27,090 versus $22,150 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,669. 14.4% of the population and 6.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 7.0% are under the age of 18 and 15.1% are 65 or older.