Longfellow's poem is credited with creating the national legend of Paul Revere, a previously little-known Massachusetts silversmith. Upon Revere's death in 1818, for example, his obituary did not mention his midnight ride but instead focused on his business sense and his many friends. The fame that Longfellow brought to Revere, however, did not materialize until after the Civil War amidst the Colonial Revival Movement of the 1870s. In 1875, for example, the Old North Church mentioned in the poem began an annual custom called the "lantern ceremony" recreating the action of the poem. Three years later, the Church added a plaque noting it as the site of "the signal lanterns of Paul Revere". Revere's elevated historical importance also led to unsubstantiated rumors that he made a set of false teeth for George Washington. Revere's legendary status continued for decades and, in part due to Longfellow's poem, authentic silverware made by Revere commanded high prices. Wall Street tycoon J. P. Morgan, for example, offered $100,000 for a punch bowl Revere made.
In 1883, Boston held a national competition for an equestrian statue of Revere. It was won by Cyrus Edwin Dallin, although his model was not accepted until 1899, and the statue was not dedicated until 1940. It stands in "Paul Revere Plaza," opposite the Old North Church.
In 1896 Helen F. Moore, dismayed that William Dawes had been forgotten, penned a parody of Longfellow's poem:
- 'Tis all very well for the children to hear
- Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
- But why should my name be quite forgot,
- Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
- Why should I ask? The reason is clear—
- My name was Dawes and his Revere.
For a long time, historians of the American Revolution as well as textbook writers relied almost entirely on Longfellow's poem as historical evidence – creating substantial misconceptions in the minds of the American people. In re-examining the episode, some historians in the 20th century have attempted to demythologize Paul Revere almost to the point of marginalization. While it is true that Revere was not the only rider that night, that does not refute the fact that Revere successfully completed the first phase of his mission to warn Adams and Hancock. Other historians have since stressed Revere's importance, including David Hackett Fischer in his book Paul Revere's Ride (1995), a scholarly study of Revere's role in the opening of the Revolution.
In 2007, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp with images referencing the poem. Longfellow is represented by a painting by artist Kazuhiko Sano.