JF Ptak Science Books Post 1717
Seeing this splendid image of the 1909 near-future forced a question into mind: what came first, aerial delivery of mail or aerial delivery of explosives? I suspected that "mail" would be the correct answer, but didn't know how much deeper that went into the past than the history of aerial bombing.
The first bits of mail were delivered among the first balloon flights ever made--in the U.S., the first quasi-official piece of airmail was a letter from president George Washington that went aloft in the first balloon flight (1793) in this country, deliverable to whomever it was that first came to greet the balloon in wherever it landed. The first semi-regular delivery of mail in the U.S. was again by balloon, beginning in 1859, which still precedes the first sustained use of explosives dropped from aerial vehicles by five decades.
This image was drawn by H. Janos for the Illustrated London News for 16 January 1909, and shows a futuristic balloon making its way from Dover to Calais with a cargo of mail and a dozen or two passengers (and whatever crew there was besides the captain, presumably belowdeck). The article reads: "1910 may seem a very early date at which to fix the coming of such vessels, yet aerial navigation is progressing at such a rate that none can call the date impossible".
And so true; it didn't take but a few years to begin experimental air service routes for the mails by biplane, and less than a dozen to have instituted long-range flights by heavy aircraft, with the mammoth mail-delivering airships sent to the not-good ideas department.
In any event I just happen to like this image by Janos--for what was a not-essential piece to the weekly magazine, the man did produce an admirable work, not the least of which is his unusual airborne oblique bird's-eye view to the shoreline.