Designed by Alois Tomiska, a Bohemian gunsmith who learned his trade in 1890s Vienna, the Little Tom sprang from a series of patents that Tomiska had been working on for years. Teaming up with Camillo Frank in 1908 to form Wiener Waffenfabrik (English = Vienna Arms Factory) Tomiska's innovative pistol pulled down an important first – the world's first double-action automatic pistol in 1914. Prior to that, semi-auto pistols were single-action guns, such as the Colt 1903, or striker-fired handguns, such as the Luger.
The company's pistols were made at low rates in both .25 and .35 ACP, using single-stack magazines that were inserted through the open chamber and not the bottom of the magwell in the grip. These blowbacks had a fixed barrel, and their internals are very much like what is seen today on the Walther PP/PPK series – which we'll get to in a minute.
Nailing down production numbers and dates on the pint-sized Little Tom can be tough. While some serial numbers are seen as high as the 50,000s, it is believed somewhat fewer than that were produced with assembly running into 1929.
While a fizzle on the gun market, the German Becker & Hollander Beholla pistol of the Great War was likely based on the Little Tom, and the design may very well have contributed to other, more iconic, handguns. In all, his design beat the Walther PP to market by more than a decade, although the latter shares many characteristics of the Little Tom, specifically the double-action mechanics. Other German guns of the same era include the Sauer 38H and Mauser HSc pistols that likewise function in the same way.
What of the inventor?
As for Tomiska, he moved to Pilsen in the newly independent Czechoslovakia in 1918, where he later continued production of the Little Tom and some late models are seen with Czech roll marks. He later worked for the company that became CZ and lent his design genius to the Vz. 22, 24, and 27 series pistols, as well as the Tomiškův Armádní Model, which was submitted for the Czech military's handgun trials in the 1920s.
His Armádní trials gun is in the Czech military museum in Prague, which is fitting as the Smithsonian here in America has a Little Tom of its own in their collection.