During the past century, the Van der Waals Laboratory at the University of Amsterdam has been the principal provider of reliable fluid property data over large ranges of pressure and temperature. This paper describes the history of the laboratory, starting in 1898 when funding for it was obtained. In the early period, under Van der Waals and Kohnstamm, the high-pressure direction was chosen, and the first PVT and phase equilibria data were published. The main focus of this paper is the Michels period, from 1921-1960. In this period, the laboratory acquired its own building, and assumed a unique position in the world because of its highly accurate thermodynamic, transport and other property measurements in fluids at high pressures. In the 1950s, a second laboratory was built by Michels at the University of Maryland, per request of the U.S. Navy. Under Trappeniers, 1961-1987, the laboratory incorporated new techniques, such as NMR, undertook a major expansion of the pressure range, and extended its interest to phase transitions in molecular solids. The position of the Van der Waals Laboratory in the world of high-pressure science is highlighted.