Official figures recorded 145 legitimate and 286 illegitimate babies dying for every 1000 births. A dietary report in 1922 noted Glaswegian families studied consumed virtually no milk and no fruit. In 1945, cases of tuberculosis reached a peak of 7316 cases per 100,000 people.
The story of the city through its public health will be told by an event in the People's Palace on Sunday as part of Glasgow Science Festival. It will explore the way local council interventions increased the life expectancy of average Glaswegians by almost half in the first 50 years of the last century, and perhaps make the audience question why it has only increased by a few more years to the present day.
In 1900, the average Glaswegian male expected to live until just before he turned 46, while his wife would hope to reach 49. By 1950, men on average lived to 64 while women could expect to outlive their male counterparts by four years, dying at 68. Yet by 2000 this figure had only risen by a further five years for men.
Glaswegians have the lowest life expectancy in Scotland, which itself is the country with the lowest life expectancy for women in the European Union and the second lowest for men.
Dr Janet Greenlees, deputy director of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare at Glasgow Caledonian University, says there are several reasons why living in Glasgow was bad for your health in the 1850s, until the intervention of the city council. These included overcrowding in substandard living conditions caused by new arrivals from Ireland and the Highlands, poor sanitation and poor diet.
"In the mid-19th century, urban areas became a focus for the first time for mass migration. The city realised they had to do something about the collective health of Glasgow rather than just improve the health of the individual."
These improvements included building a reservoir at Loch Katrine to bring clean, fresh water into Glasgow; creating parks across the metropolis and regulating the numbers of people living in each house.
Another element was the appointment of a medical officer of health, with wide-ranging powers. The second man to be appointed, James Burn Russell, said of the city in the Victorian era: "Various portions of the city of Glasgow are so built, and the buildings so densely inhabited, as to be highly injurious to the moral and physical welfare of the inhabitants."
Dr Greenlees added that state intervention can only go so far when many health issues are down to an individual's freedom to choose: "Public health improvements in the first half of the 20th century made a significant improvement in life expectancy, but in the last 50 years the fact that there was a lack of significant increase was because public health and healthcare can only go so far. It is then up to the individual to improve their lifestyle choices. After all, not everyone chooses health.
"Some of the reasons behind Scotland's continued ill health have historical roots. There is continuity in poor diet, a high consumption of alcohol and poverty. While the sanitation problems of 1900 have mostly been resolved, there remains a shortage of affordable, quality housing."
Historian David Black explains that educating citizens away from unhealthy decisions through health promotion materials has been ongoing for almost a century: "Medical officers of health in the 1920s were having health events where they would take over a cinema and use the new technologies of the day, which were slides and later films, to educate the people.
"Glasgow City Council made a whole range of films about the city and the health of the city."
Some of these films will be presented by Mr Black at The Health of a City: Glasgow 1860-1960, on Sunday.
Glasgow Science Festival has health as its underlying theme this year. Dr Deborah McNeill, festival director, said: "Glasgow has an unenviable reputation for poor health and low life expectancy but Glasgow's universities can also lead the way in solving some of these issues, from lifestyle changes at a personal level, local and community initiatives to world class research in fields such as cardiovascular and cancer studies to drug delivery systems.
"The Glasgow Science Festival programme has a strong health and wellbeing theme to showcase this work, including events such as the University of Glasgow's Science Sunday, functional fitness MoTs and the Great Govan Science Reshuffle."