Although a newcomer among nation-states, Germany was quick to enter the era of mass politics, as witnessed by the phenomenal spread of organized special interest groups in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. These groups ranged from professional associations, such as the Association of German Retail Clerks, founded in July 1881, to single-issue lobbies, such as the German Navy League, established in 1898.
In its statutes, the Association of German Retail Clerks described itself specifically as a group dedicated to “mutual assistance and [the] advance of the retail profession.” It strove to represent the socioeconomic interests of retail clerks, assisting its members in times of need through arbitration services, unemployment support, and legal advice. The Association had a fund that provided health, burial, old age, and disability insurance as well as financial support for widows and orphans. Rehabilitation homes for members and other social welfare measures were also written into the association’s statues. Overt political activity was expressly forbidden.