San Carlos City was once known as Binalatongan. From the time of its founding up to the middle of the 19th century, it was considered as the biggest and most populous town of Pangasinan composing a whole third of the Province. It is recorded in history as a bastion of freedom fighters, with famous uprisings against Spaniards led by Andres Malong (1660) and Juan dela Cruz Palaris (1762). These heroic acts prompted the Spanish colonizers to change the name of the town to San Carlos in honor of King Carlos III of Spain.
San Carlos became a city by virtue of Republic Act No. 4487 signed on June 19, 1965.