JF Ptak Science Books Post 1771
In the early days of aviation aerial assault must have seemed incredible--and an abomination. Hurling stones and other offensive weapons by trebuchet and catapult is one thing, and launching balls and shot from cannons and mortars is quite another--but actually having your weapon flown over an enemy's position and dropped, remotely or via cable, must have been ab excruciating achievement, militarily speaking. To be able to direct an explosive charge over a position not reachable by an infantry (say in 1915) must've been a short-lived comfort on the offensive end, though the user of such a technology would also have to contend with the contrary, as the enemy would be able to do the same thing themselves.
This idea was not limited to just military purposes. Companies could now wage an advertising war war against competitors in a thee-sky's-the-limit campaign, hoisting their ads on balloons anchored over a city, making it possible for the first time to have your message so universally read, a pre-intertubes version of smoke signals.
And this, seeming more on the Orwellian/1984 side, or perhaps more contemporary as an instrument of the Dear Leader in North Korea (left, from Popular Mechanics, July, 1939).
Here's an interesting, pre-airplane, airship-delivered explosive device: floated over an enemy's position, the chord would be pulled at the desired time to create a tear in the balloon's top, sending the craft down, with the bomb exploding on impact:
Another sort of slow death from above advertising scheme:
[Google patent: http://www.google.com/patents/US144436?dq=balloon]
In this device patented by Steinmetz the explosive device is still actually attached to the aircraft when exploded--not a very common way of delivering your weapon. The airship would advance on the enemy, with the bomb attached to a cable just above an anchor at bottom; the anchor would grapple the target, and the bomb detonated from the gondola of the airship:
What follows are a selection of patent office drawings for more conventional bombs that were to be dropped from aeroplane, and mostly dropped by hand. Bombing people (and cities, in general) more or less began in WWI, though not widely (or effectively) practiced. The bombing business was greatly "refined" in the off-season of the tour wars, with many practice sessions undertaken by European nations in their colonial properties, and especially against cities, striking hard with incendiaries to root out the undercover military forces. Even though there were initial international community meetings and conferences that outlawed indiscriminate bombings of civilian populations, the tenets were widely not-not ignored. One of the large issues was the definition of "civilian"--and when that can't be decided, pretty much nothing else can happen (for the good).
[Source: Google patents, http://www.google.com/patents/US1221426?dq=BALLOON+BOMB]
[Source: Google patents, http://www.google.com/patents/US1327487?dq=aerial+bomb]
This sample (above) was made to be handled by the aviator, and dropped by hand onto enemy forces.
This one is quite nasty--it looks to me as though there is a central explosion made to disperse a collection of twelve "anti-personnel" shot canister.