Mansfield is the county seat of Richland County, Ohio. James Hedges, Jacob Newman, and Joseph Larwill established the town in 1808. Residents named the community after Jared Mansfield, the surveyor general of the United States. Mansfield grew slowly, having just twenty houses and one store in 1817. By 1846, 2,330 people resided in Mansfield. This tremendous growth partly resulted from the completion of a railroad, connecting Mansfield with Sandusky, Ohio. In 1846, Mansfield contained two newspaper offices, twenty-three stores, and seven churches.
Over the next forty years, Mansfield grew tremendously. In 1880, 9,859 people resided in the town, and in 1890, 13,473 people lived there. In 1888, the town was a center of manufacturing and trade in north-central Ohio thanks to the four railroads that passed through the community. Dozens of manufacturing businesses operated in the town, producing doors, brass objects, linseed oil, suspenders, paper boxes, and numerous other items. Mansfield's largest employer was a cigar maker, Hautzenroeder & Company, with 285 employees in 1888. That same year, construction began on a prison facility.
Mansfield continued to prosper during the twentieth century. In 2000, the community was Richland County's largest population center, with 49,346 residents. That same year, the city was ranked as the fifth best place in the United States to raise a family, and the United States Conference of Mayors has voted the community one of "America's most livable cities." Among Mansfield's leading employers are Crane Plumbing, Armco, and Newman Technology. Mansfield is also home to the Mansfield Correctional Institution.